Pubdate: Thu, 26 Mar 2015
Source: Lethbridge Herald (CN AB)
Copyright: 2015 The Lethbridge Herald
Author: Dave Mabell


At less than 52 per cent, you wouldn't call the numbers "high."

But a new report shows a majority of Lethbridge residents now agree
with "recreational" use of marijuana - without the risk of criminal

More men (60 per cent) than women (42.5 per cent) favour a change in
the present law, according to the results of the latest survey from
the Citizen Society Research Lab at Lethbridge College.

The social policy poll, completed earlier this year, also showed
Lethbridge residents (an average of 51.6 per cent) were more in favour
of recreational use than their counterparts in Coaldale (at 45 per
cent). Overall, support has steadily increased from about 39 per cent
over the last four years.

"There's a lot of influences going on," says political scientist Faron
Ellis, reflecting on the growing consensus.

Some people may be observing social change in Washington state and
Colorado, where citizens may now buy the herb in stores. Others may be
responding to comments from Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who said a
year ago his government is considering making simple possession of
marijuana a ticketable offence like taking liquor to a park. "Most of
it is localized to Canadians' reflection of their own circumstances,"
Ellis suggests. "Over time, a number of Canadians have come to see a
criminal conviction as an unjust penalty for people who use
marijuana," and see it as a recreational drug with potentially fewer
negative effects than alcohol.

The annual study showed Lethbridge-area residents also agree
increasingly with same-gender marriage and doctor-assisted suicide.
Support remains high for a woman's right to choose abortion, and for
doctor-prescribed marijuana use.

For some of those issues, Ellis says, support may have already reached
a plateau. Use of medically prescribed marijuana, now at 82.5 per
cent, first passed the 80 per cent mark in 2010. Support for a woman's
right to choose abortion has remained in the 75- to 80-per-cent range
since 2007.

Public backing for Canada's laws respecting same-gender marriage,
meanwhile, continues to increase. Ten years ago - when the law was
changing - less than 40 per cent of southern Albertans agreed.

Now that number is 76 per cent, Ellis noted, up from 71 per cent two
years ago and 74.3 per cent last year.

"Support for marijuana is 10 years later, but the patterns seem

A recent decision from the Supreme Court of Canada may have influenced
southern Albertans on another issue. Just under 74 per cent agreed
with doctor-assisted suicide last fall, but that response has risen
now to 80.5 per cent.

"It didn't lead to a huge spike of support," Ellis

Instead, he maintains, the court decision reflected what most
Canadians already believe on that issue.

Lethbridge-area responses closely resemble last fall's province-wide
survey on the same questions, Ellis points out. Support for
non-prescribed use of marijuana, for example, grew from less than 40
per cent across Alberta in 2011 to an even 53 per cent last fall.

He says Lethbridge, in recent years, has been described as "a small
Calgary." And that flies in the face of suggestions it's a right-wing,
"redneck" town from a bygone era.

"But Lethbridge is really representative of the average of Alberta
opinion," he says. "It's just uncanny."

In today's media-saturated culture, Ellis observes, Albertans are
likely to reflect the ideas and attitudes of many other Canadians.

"Our perceptions are not as localized as they were 50 years ago," he
says. "Today you don't need to live in a big city to be

Ellis says the twice-a-year public opinion study, conducted randomly
by phone, has a 3.35 per cent margin of error, 19 times out of 20.
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