by Phillip Smith
Even as the Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephan Harper institutes harsher penalties for some marijuana offenses, a new poll finds that nearly two-thirds of Canadians favor either decriminalizing or legalizing marijuana, while less than one-third favor the status quo or even harsher penalties.
The poll, from Forum Research, found that 33% backed legalization, while 32% favored decriminalization of small amounts. Support for legalization was down seven points over last year's Forum Research poll, while support for decriminalization was up by six points. Overall, support for marijuana law reform was essentially unchanged from last year.
Only 17% supported leaving the laws as they are, while 15% wanted stiffer penalties. Support for the status quo or stiffer penalties was strongest among Conservatives.
Support for legalization was highest among people under 35, men, people with incomes over $100,000, and Ontario and Atlantic region residents. British Columbians, Ontarians, and Quebeckers also had strong support decriminalization.
"Legalization is a smart policy for the Liberal Party to adopt as it plays into their natural strengths and against those of the government. It's an issue many Canadians appear willing to rally around," said Forum Research President, Dr. Lorne Bozinoff. "Public opinion has been ahead of government on this issue for a while."
The Forum Poll was an interactive phone survey of 1,849 randomly selected Canadian residents over 18 conducted on November 19. It has a margin of error of +/-2%.