A majority of British Columbians think the legalization of marijuana would reduce violence related to the drug trade, an Angus Reid Strategies poll suggests.
Sixty-five per cent of the respondents would legalize marijuana in order to minimize violence, while 35 per cent think harsher penalties for marijuana trafficking are the answer.
“The illegal marijuana industry is linked to much of the gang violence on B.C.’s streets,” said the poll, which asked respondents to choose between either the legalization of pot or increased penalties as a way to decrease violence. Police have linked at least 17 of this year’s 34 homicides in the Lower Mainland to gangs or drugs.
The poll also found 77 per cent of Green party and 74 per cent of NDP voters support legalizing pot.
The B.C. Green party’s platform includes the legalization and regulation of marijuana, while decriminalization or legalization are absent from both NDP and Liberal platforms. The Liberals have committed to increasing the number of police officers and prosecutors working on gang crime.
“The poll shows that people are way ahead of politicians on this issue,” said Neil Boyd, a criminologist at Simon Fraser University.
Boyd says marijuana-related violence occurs because the product is valuable and unregulated. The criminologist said some of the bigger crops can be worth up to $1 million.
“If you are business and you have a conflict, you can go to court,” said Boyd. “If you are a marijuana grower, you have nowhere to go.”
Regulation would end violence as a dispute mechanism, according to Boyd, and make it safer to buy and sell pot.
Still, since marijuana is illegal worldwide, the theory has never been tested, he said.
Drug laws are under federal jurisdiction, meaning that provinces cannot change them. However, provincial governments can change how federal drug laws are enforced.
The online poll found British Columbians are more evenly split on existing drug enforcement laws. A slim majority — 51 per cent — believes lax enforcement on so-called “soft drugs” like marijuana lets criminals go free, which may lead to violence. Forty-nine per cent feels enforcement criminalizes otherwise law-abiding citizens.
The poll of 822 people, conducted from April 24 to 26, has a margin of error of 3.4 percentage points, 19 times in 20.
– Article from The Vancouver Sun on May 2, 2009.