HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Marijuana Use Doubles, 57% Back Legalization
Pubdate: Thu, 25 Nov 2004
Source: Ottawa Citizen (CN ON)
Copyright: 2004 The Ottawa Citizen
Author: Janice Tibbetts, The Ottawa Citizen
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


14% Of Canadians Smoked In Past Year; They Want To Be 'Left Alone,'
Studies Find

Canadians are smoking marijuana 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

An advance copy of the survey was given to the Citizen yesterday, the
same day the federal government released a study of 13,000 Canadians
showing that marijuana use has doubled in the last decade.

Fourteen per cent of those surveyed for the federal study said they
smoked marijuana in the last year, up from 7.4 per cent in 1994. The
federal 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 Mr. Pressman, whose
pro-marijuana group commissioned the poll.

The NORML survey also reveals that only eight per cent of Canadians
support criminalizing marijuana if it leads to jail time. Another 32
per cent believe that 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, 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 Mr.

The telephone survey of 1,000 adults was conducted for NORML Canada by
SES Research of Ottawa from Oct. 26 to Nov. 1. The results are
considered accurate within 3.1 percentage points, 19 times in 20.

The support for legalization appears to have spiked since last fall,
when a Decima Research poll of 2,015 Canadians showed that only 40 per
cent opposed a state ban on marijuana smoking.

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

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 time.

The federal marijuana bill, which was revived last month after two
earlier attempts failed, proposes to eliminate criminal records,
replacing them with fines of $100 or more for people caught with less
than 15 grams, the equivalent of about 15 cigarettes.

The survey also found that just over half of Canadians support
government regulation of the marijuana industry and 37 per cent are
against it, while 27 per cent were uncertain.

A Senate report two years ago also called on the government to end its
marijuana prohibition and implement a system to regulate its
production, distribution and consumption.

Legalizing and regulating the industry would bring in more than $2
billion a year in extra government tax revenue, the Fraser Institute,
an economic think-tank, estimated in a recent report.

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

The study and the poll were released less than a week before U.S.
President George W. Bush comes to Canada. Canada's position has been
an irritant to the White House and could emerge as a contentious issue
during the presidential visit.

U.S. Ambassador Paul Cellucci reiterated the U.S. opposition last week
when he predicted liberalizing the law on Canada would lead to
increased checks at the already congested borders.

An influential business group, the Canadian Council of Chief
Executives, also jumped into the debate by saying that the marijuana
decriminalization will exacerbate the multibillion-dollar problem of
substance abuse in the workplace.

The NORML poll also provides a breakdown of public opinion, showing
that Quebec residents, people who rent, and Canadians 18 to 29 and 40
to 59 are most likely to support a "hands-off" approach. Westerners
were evenly divided on government intervention and Ontario and
Atlantic Canada hovered around the national average. In Quebec, 68 per
cent of respondents reported that people should be "left alone" to
smoke marijuana in peace.
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