Newsbrief: Polls Find Canadian Majority Favoring Marijuana Legalization 11/26/04

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The results of two surveys of Canadians came in this week, and both suggest the Canadian government is behind the curve with its plan to make possession of small amounts of marijuana a ticketable offense. When taken together, the two polls, one of attitudes toward marijuana law reform in Canada and one of marijuana usage rates, strongly indicate that pot has won broad social acceptance up north.

In a poll conducted for the Canadian National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws ( and released Thursday, 57% of respondents effectively backed legalization of the herb. Those persons said that persons caught with small amounts of marijuana should be "left alone." This poll marks the first time a Canadian majority supported removing pot possession from the realm of the courts and police.

According to the survey, only 8% of Canadians support sending pot smokers to jail, while 32% favor a scheme of tickets and fines rather than a criminal conviction. That minority position is the one embraced by Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin with his bill to create a system of fines for possession of less than 15 grams (one-half ounce).

Even more strikingly, 53% of those surveyed either "somewhat support" or "strongly support" taxing and regulating marijuana in the same way alcohol and tobacco are taxed and regulated. Only 37% opposed taxed and legalized marijuana, while 3% had no opinion and 9% mysteriously selected "neither."

The survey was conducted by the respected polling firm SES Canada Research for NORML Canada and has a 3.1% margin of error.

"A clear majority of Canadians believe that individuals who possess small quantities of marijuana for personal use should be left alone," said SES president Nikita James Nanos.

"The results show Canadians feel the government is going in the wrong direction" said NORML Canada executive director Jody Pressman in a statement accompanying the poll results. "The people are way ahead of government on this issue because they understand prohibition isn't working now and it never will. Taxing and regulating cannabis would generate billions of dollars in new revenue for social programs and finally remove the criminal element from the sale and distribution of marijuana," said Pressman.

A day earlier, the Canadian government reported that its surveys showed that marijuana use nationwide had nearly doubled in the last 10 years, with reported annual use rising from 7.4% in 1994 to 14% last year. The survey from the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse also found that among young people, 30% of 15-to-17-year-olds and 47% of 18-to-20-year-olds had toked up.

"Criminal prosecution and enforcement has only led to increased consumption of marijuana. We need a smarter strategy, starting with the recognition that the current approach has failed," said Pressman. "Criminalizing use has ruined people's lives, cost hundreds of millions, and only served to fatten police budgets and the profit margin for organized crime. Over three million Canadians use marijuana and they are tired of being treated like criminals. Government is out of touch with public opinion on marijuana," said Pressman. "Instead of perpetuating the failed policies of the past, NORML Canada calls on government to regulate and tax marijuana like beer, wine, and spirits."

For more on the NORML Canada poll, visit online.

To view the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse survey, go to online.

To read the Canadian government's "decrim" bill, C-17, go to and click on C-17.

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Issue #364 , 11/26/04

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Editorial: Epic and Turbulent Times | DRCNet Event: Rep. Barney Frank to Keynote for Perry Fund Forum/Fundraiser, December 9, 2004, Boston | Seeking Political Traction, Britain's Blair Marches Boldly Backwards on Drug Policy | SSDP Does College Park: Sixth Annual National Conference Shows Off a Maturing Organization | Newsbrief: Pennsylvania "Treatment and Jail" Sentencing Reform Gets Governor's Signature | Newsbrief: Polls Find Canadian Majority Favoring Marijuana Legalization | Newsbrief: More Support for Medical Marijuana from Connecticut Nurses and Texans | Newsbrief: Rep. Souder Busily Fighting the "Good" Fight | Newsbrief: University of Vermont to Pay $15,000 to Students Arrested for Marijuana Advocacy | Newsbrief: Federal Appeals Court Says Police Can Take Hair Samples Whenever They Feel Like It | Newsbrief: Philippine Drug Doc Calls for Marijuana Decriminalization | Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories | This Week in History | Apply Now to Intern At DRCNet! | Criminal Justice Policy Foundation Seeking Executive Secretary or Administrative Assistant | Seeking Information, Affiliations, Link Exchanges | The Reformer's Calendar

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