Pubdate: Tue, 20 Nov 2012
Source: Toronto Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2012 The Toronto Star
Author: Alex Ballingall


A new poll shows a majority of Canadians support loosening the 
country's marijuana laws, a stance that's starkly out of sync with 
the federal government's pot policy.

According to the poll, released Tuesday by Toronto's Forum Research, 
65 per cent of Canadians favour either the legalization and taxation 
of the drug, or decriminalizing it in small amounts.

"Very few want the law to be as it is," said Forum president Lorne 
Bozinoff, pointing out that 17 per cent believe Canada's current pot 
laws should remain, while 15 per cent want tougher rules.

On Monday, Forum Research polled 1,849 randomly selected people over 
the telephone in an interactive voice response survey.

"Public opinion has been ahead of government on this issue for a 
while," said Bozinoff.

Under the Conservatives, Ottawa has veered toward harsher penalties 
for marijuana, increasing potential prison time and imposing 
mandatory jail sentences for growing six or more weed plants.

These strategies have drawn criticism from scientists and 
organizations such as the Brazil-based Global Commission on Drug 
Policy, which in March called them "destructive, expensive and ineffective."

"I think (the Conservatives) have a morally based belief model, which 
is not based on evidence," said Richard Mathias, a professor of 
public health at the University of British Columbia.

"It is paternalism in the extreme."

Recent developments in the U.S., where marijuana was legalized in 
Colorado and Washington State in election-day plebiscites, have 
brought attention to the issue in Canada. Last week, Liberal 
leadership candidate Justin Trudeau came out in favour of 
decriminalization, while leaving the door open to legalization, 
should he ever come to power.

Tom Stamatakis, president of the Canadian Police Association, said 
the public is too hasty to favour relaxing weed laws. He contends 
supporters of change are overlooking the risks of consuming and producing pot.

"We don't have the tools and the training available to us now to 
ensure that people aren't driving cars, for example, or operating 
machinery, while they're impaired by marijuana," he said.

"There are all kinds of implications that I don't think people are 
considering carefully enough ... It's still a harmful substance, ultimately."
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