Pubdate: Thu, 25 Nov 2004
Source: Windsor Star (CN ON)
Copyright: The Windsor Star 2004
Author: Janice Tibbetts, CanWest News Service
Cited: NORML Canada
Cited: NORML/SES poll
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)


Poll Finds Only 8 Per Cent Support Criminal Penalties

OTTAWA - Canadians are smoking pot more than ever before and the
majority want police and government to leave people to indulge in peace.

A new poll for the advocacy group NORML Canada shows for the first
time that more than half of Canadians effectively support
legalization, with 57 per cent reporting that people should be "left
alone" if they are caught with small amounts of marijuana for personal

A advance copy of the survey was given to CanWest News Service on
Wednesday, the same day the federal government released a study of
13,000 Canadians showing that marijuana use has doubled in the last

Fourteen per cent of those surveyed for the federal study said they
smoked pot in the last year, up from 7.4 in 1994. The study also
revealed that almost 30 per cent of 15- to 17-year-olds and 47 per
cent of 18- and 19-year-olds had used marijuana in the last year.

"This is really a rude awakening for the government," said Jody
Pressman, executive director of the advocacy group NORML Canada.

"Government is going in the wrong direction if it thinks
decriminalization is a step forward," said Pressman, whose
pro-marijuana group commissioned the poll.

The survey also reveals that only eight per cent support criminalizing
marijuana if it leads to jail time. Another 32 per cent believe that
pot possession should be punished by fines rather than criminal
records, a middle ground that is currently proposed in a federal bill
winding its way through Parliament.

NORML wants the federal government to scrap its controversial
decriminalization bill and bring in an end to prohibition and begin
regulating the industry.

"It's easier to get marijuana on a schoolground today than it is to
get alcohol or cigarettes because we don't apply the same regulatory
measures to marijuana to keep it away from young people," said Pressman.

SES president Nikita Nanos attributed the hike to the government
"normalizing" marijuana use through its policy of allowing people to
smoke for medicinal purposes.

The survey shows that Canadians are softening on marijuana laws at a
time when some police and parts of the business community, and
especially the U.S. government, are stepping up their opposition.

While the latest poll reveals that only eight per cent support
criminalization if it means going to jail, it did not gauge opinion on
the far more likely scenario of people receiving a criminal record but
escaping jail. 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake