Pubdate: Wed, 07 Mar 2018
Source: Lethbridge Herald (CN AB)
Copyright: 2018 The Lethbridge Herald
Author: Dave Mabell
Page: A3


With legal recreational marijuana in the wings, Lethbridge remains
divided on its use.

The latest survey of city residents shows an even 50-50 split when
asked if they support legalization. But support is up from 43.9 per
cent in 2016 and 46.6 per cent last year, as reported by the Citizen
Society Research Lab at Lethbridge College.

On several other oncecontroversial issues, however, there's less
disagreement. Lethbridge residents continue to agree largely with
same-gender marriage (77.3 per cent), doctorassisted death (79.5 per
cent) and a woman's right to abortion (81.7 per cent).

Support for medical use of marijuana has, meanwhile, soared to 89.5
per cent.

"That's almost universal acceptance," says Faron Ellis, research chair
at the college.

Support has grown from less than 75 per cent 10 years ago, as more
Canadians are making use of prescribed cannabis to counter chronic
pain and other maladies.

How the public's views change on recreational marijuana, Ellis says,
will likely depend on how smoothly - or otherwise - its retail sales
network rolls out.

With legalization expected later this year, the use of marijuana
recreationally is now supported by 56.4 per cent of men who responded
to poll-takers' questions, vs. 43.6 per cent of women. Those with
household incomes over $100,000 were almost as likely (51.6 per cent)
in support as those earning less than $40,000 (53.2 per cent).

"It could go either way," Ellis says.

If there are few missteps, public acceptance could grow. If
legalization brings unintended consequences, it could fall.

Ellis compares the situation to the City's plans to introduce curbside
recycling in some neighborhoods this year, with the balance to follow
a year later. The public opinion research lab showed support has
increased to better than 62 per cent.

But support could disappear "pretty quickly," he says, if the smaller
carts are easily tossed around by the wind - as one example.

Commenting on the latest study's demographic analysis, Ellis points to
age and religious activity as significant indicators on the
recreational use question.

While 68.2 per cent of those polled who said they're 18 to 29 were in
favour, barely 30 per cent of those 65 and older agreed. People who
said they attend church at least twice a month were 33.7 per cent in
agreement, but those who said "rarely" or "never" recorded 61.3 per
cent support.

Religious views were also a factor with the abortion question, Ellis
notes. But more than 60 per cent of the "most religious" agree with
women's choice on the matter, rising to 86.4 per cent who said they
attend worship "several times a year," and to 93.4 per cent of

"In most Canadians' minds, the abortion debate was settled some time
ago," he says.

Even in southern Alberta - once considered more conservative than the
rest of the province - Ellis says public opinion is 4:1 in support of
a woman's choice.

"We've become more individualistic and want more choices, instead of
restrictions from our government," he says.

"Lethbridge is just as progressive as the rest of the

As MP Rachael Harder found out, Ellis says, most Canadians are not
interested in related questions raised by "pro-life" groups.

"They can't move beyond that choice debate."

The college-based survey, conducted last month, recorded the views of
1,288 randomly selected Lethbridge adults, by cellphone and land line.
Ellis says it is considered accurate to within 2.7 per cent, plus or
minus, 19 times out of 20.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt