If you’re an American, you’ll be forgiven if you believe our neighbor to the north allows legal weed. In fact, it doesn’t. What’s more, support for legalization is weaker in Canada than it is in the United States, according to a new poll.
Just 37 percent of respondents in the poll said they want to see their government legalize pot for recreational purposes. Another 33 percent said they favor decriminalization, where criminal penalties are replaced with civil fines.
Nearly 14 percent of Canadians said they think marijuana laws should stay the same, while 12 percent want to increase penalties.
Marijuana is currently illegal for recreational use in Canada, though it’s allowed by court order as medicine for patients with severe illnesses. The topic of legalization has recently come front and center among national politicians, with Kevin Trudeau, leader of the Liberal Party, saying the idea could help Canadians and their country.
But support for full legalization is weaker in Canada than it is in the United States. In other recent polls, more than half of Americans said they want to legalize marijuana.
The Canadian pollsters contacted 3,000 people in a survey commissioned by the Department of Justice.
“The government of Canada wanted a clear and current understanding of the Canadian public opinion on a range of justice issues,” they said in a statement. “This research was conducted to provide insight into the views, concerns and priorities of Canadians on criminal justice issues.”
Even without majority backing for full legalization, support for reform in Canada is strong. Together, the respondents who favor legalization or decriminalization amount to 70 percent of the population.
Some changes are likely. Trudeau and the Liberal Party say they want to legalize, regulate, and tax cannabis. The ruling Conservative Party, on the other hand, opposes legalization but could support some decriminalization by allowing police to write fines rather than arrest users.
The poll was conducted by Ipsos Reid in early February but wasn’t released until early August. It was part of an effort to determine Canadian opinions on issues such as pot law and legalization of prostitution.
The Conservative government argues that legalization would lead to more young people using the drug, but most Canadians disagree. About 53 percent think cannabis use would “stay about the same,” while 38 percent believe it would increase and 6 percent say it would drop.
Though support for legalization was low, it increased to more than 40 percent when the question was asked a different way: “Should companies be allowed to produce and promote the sale of marijuana just like tobacco and alcohol?”
And nearly 83 percent said they support medical marijuana, which has been legal since 2000.
“The status quo is obviously failed policy,” said Ralph Goodale, deputy leader of the Liberals. “That’s clearly recognized by the vast majority of Canadians. They come to some different conclusions about what exactly to do about it, but clearly they want change.”