EDMONTON — On the eve of pot legalization, slightly more than half of Canadians believe legal marijuana will cause more harm than good, and 76 per cent believe the age to purchase should be 21, according to a new poll.
“They’re wary about young people,” said John Wright, CEO of DART Insight.
The poll found that 52 per cent of respondents agreed that legal weed would cause more harm than good, while 48 per cent disagreed. However, there is some variance between provinces. In Quebec, where the newly elected Coalition Avenir Québec government promised to raise the legal age of consumption to 21, 64 per cent of survey respondents agreed legalization would cause more harm than good. (The rest of the provinces have set the legal age at 18 or 19 — corresponding with the age to buy booze.)
Wright said the results reflect a wariness and “deep concern” about the impact of marijuana legalization. It’s a change he likened to the lifting of Prohibition.
“We’re not at a stage here where we have a firm understanding of what the implications are going to be,” Wright said. “There’s a sense that the government of Canada, while it’s brought this in, has left it up to everybody else to work out the details.”
That perception of pot’s pernicious effects drops slightly elsewhere: 55 per cent in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, 54 per cent in Alberta, 52 per cent in Atlantic Canada, 47 per cent in Ontario and 42 per cent in British Columbia believe legalization will cause more harm than good.
Continuing with this theme, a slight majority of respondents said they would support their local governments if they wanted to ban marijuana.
The idea is most popular in Quebec (63 per cent) and Alberta (55 per cent) and least popular in Atlantic Canada (47 per cent); those most in favour of this are men (56 per cent versus 50 per cent) and 61 per cent of respondents 55 or older are in favour of banning cannabis sales, compared to 53 per cent of those aged 18 to 34.
We even have patchworks between the Canadian military and the RCMP … if your own institutions can’t be on the same page, you can’t really expect the public to be
Those most likely to favour this are Conservative voters (69 per cent) or supporters of the Bloc Quebecois (62 per cent); only 40 per cent of Liberals and 34 per cent of Greens were fine with banning pot, compared to 44 per cent of NDP voters.
“This is going to affect employees, kids, local crime — you just go down the list and this has got a serious implication for our society,” Wright said. “We even have patchworks between the Canadian military and the RCMP … if your own institutions can’t be on the same page, you can’t really expect the public to be.”
However, Wright said, the majority of Canadians do agree the legal age should be 21. And even across political affiliations, the percentage is relatively consistent: Bloc voters are 81 per cent in favour, Conservatives 80 per cent, Greens 77 per cent, Liberals 74 per cent and 70 per cent of NDP supporters agreed.
Once pot becomes legal, Wright said, polling has shown that only about 24 per cent of people plan to actually use cannabis.
“We’ve had greater education, awareness and implementation of solid waste sites in this country than we have on this issue,” Wright said. “If we see a series of issues arise that are causing problems in real time, then there’s the potential in these numbers for significant backlash.”
The survey used a randomly selected split sample of 2,902 and 2,867 Canadians who are members of the sampling firm National Maru/Blue Online panel, and was conducted online between Sept. 13 and 19, in either official language. Wright said that using a Bayesian Credibility Interval, the split sample is accurate to +/- 2.1 per cent, 19 times out of 20, if all adult Canadians were polled.
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