Pubdate: Fri, 24 Oct 2014
Source: Lethbridge Herald (CN AB)
Copyright: 2014 The Lethbridge Herald
Author: Dave Mabell
Bookmark: (Marijuana - Canada)


Care for a Beer? or a Buzz?

A majority of Albertans now see marijuana as a legitimate recreational
choice. And nearly 80 per cent favour its use for medicinal purposes.

That's the headline from the latest province-wide public opinion
survey from the Citizen Society Research Lab in Lethbridge.

Growing numbers of Albertans agree with proposals to remove legal
sanctions against marijuana "used for recreational purposes," says
Lethbridge College political scientist Faron Ellis, who manages the
research lab.

"It's a shift toward more individual choice," he says, as Canadians
continue to reject excessive control by government or social pressure.

And they're taking the same approach, he says, to once-taboo topics
like doctor-assisted suicide, a woman's right to abortion and
same-gender marriage.

"The morality that was enforced by the social structure, by way of the
churches, was replaced by Big Government," Ellis says. "Governments
tried to limit our choices according to centuries-old values."

But in a new millennium, with ready access to information and global
communication, Ellis says fewer Canadians are willing to follow
politically determined dictums from Ottawa. He cites growing
acceptance of marijuana as a recreational choice, as a sign of that

With two of the nation's political leaders calling for
decriminalization of the drug - and even the governing Conservatives
making noises about softening penalties for its possession - Ellis
reports Albertans' attitudes have changed rapidly over recent years,

Barely one-third approved of marijuana use as recently as 2009, when
the question was first asked as part of the research lab's
province-wide survey. But that number climbed close to 45 per cent in
2012, passed the 50 per cent mark last year and reached 53 per cent
this fall.

"In the last few years, we've really seen the public's opinion change
on recreational marijuana," Ellis says.

While Albertans are becoming steadily more "progressive," he says, few
issues see that much change over a short period. By comparison, a
clear majority (65.7 per cent) favoured same-gender marriage rights in
2009 and that number has grown step by step to 78.6 per cent today.

Many of those questions touch on "core values," Ellis says, and people
don't change their minds quickly.

"It's not overnight change, it's evolutionary."

On another hot-button issue, support for abortion choice has remained
in the 80 per cent range since 2010. As long as Canadians have free
speech, Ellis suggests, there will be some issues that will never gain
universal support.

But 20 years from now, younger Canadians may be puzzled by the
rhetoric that's surrounded some of today's issues. Ellis says many of
today's protagonists will accept changes in society, and they'll find
other battles.

"They'll say 'It's not the end of the world and we can move

Despite this province's socially conservative reputation, Ellis says,
Albertans continue to move up on the "traditional-progressive index,"
in step with other Canadians.

"The social conservatives have lost the cultural war."

The Citizen Society Research Lab survey, conducted earlier this month,
sampled 564 adult Albertans from all parts of the province. The
weighted sample yields a margin of error of 4.1 per cent, 19 times out
of 20.

The lab posts its findings on the Lethbridge College website.
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MAP posted-by: Richard