Pubdate: Sun, 27 Apr 2003
Source: London Free Press (CN ON)
Copyright: 2003 The London Free Press a division of Sun Media Corporation.
Author: Jason Botchford


Public support to relax Canada's marijuana laws is rising quickly, finds a 
national poll that shows a decisive 83 per cent want pot prohibition to be 
less stringent.

Only 14 per cent of respondents to the Sun-Leger poll said they support the 
status quo and think pot should remain illegal in all circumstances.

"It seems that with just 14 per cent now saying it should be illegal, 
that's really saying people think changes need to be made soon in some way, 
shape or form," said Leslie Martin of Leger Marketing .

The poll of 1,501 Canadians, conducted April 1-6, is considered accurate 
within 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

The poll comes as the federal government is preparing legislation to 
decriminalize possession of small quantities of marijuana, making it a 
summary offence instead of a criminal one.

Previous polls in Canada have shown a steady increase in support for 
decriminalization and the use of marijuana for medicinal reasons. Nearly 
half have supported decriminalizing pot and a majority (about 60 per cent) 
have been in favour of marijuana being used medicinally.

But to have 83 per cent wanting more relaxed laws was surprising, Martin 
said, especially when more than half the survey respondents had never even 
tried the drug.

"I expected the number of people who thought the drug should be illegal to 
be higher," Martin said, "I expected people to say, 'I don't smoke pot, 
I've never smoked it, I wouldn't smoke it, so it should be illegal,' but 
that doesn't seem to be the case."

"I think we are getting more and more people who are realizing the medical 
benefits," Martin said.

The Sun-Leger poll asked respondents which of four statements best 
described their sentiments. Twenty per cent said marijuana should be 
legalized; 43 per cent said it should be legalized for medical purposes and 
20 per cent said possession should be decriminalized. Only 14 per cent said 
it should always be illegal.

Leger Marketing conducted a similar poll two years ago, providing people 
with only two choices: respondents could say they were in favour of a 
federal law legalizing the sale and use of pot or they were against it. In 
that poll, 47 per cent said they were not in favour of legalizing marijuana.

"I think you can draw a comparison and note that people seem to be more 
ready now for changes to legislation," Martin said.

Although most Canadians would like to see less-stringent marijuana laws, 
one-third believe smoking pot leads to harder drugs, such as heroin and 
cocaine, the poll found.
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