Most Canadians Want to Decriminalize or Legalize and Tax Pot

More than half of Canadians want laxer pot laws.

An exclusive Leger Marketing poll for QMI Agency found 21% think the federal government should decriminalize soft drugs like marijuana, while 34% say legalize it and tax it just like tobacco and alcohol.

But 20% of Canadians take an opposite view and think there should be even tougher penalties for people caught with cannabis.

The chronically contentious issue divides Canadians along lines of age, gender and geography — and only 16% think current laws are adequate.

Men are more likely to think marijuana should be legalized — 39% compared to 29% of women — and youth are more open to slacker laws than seniors. About 23% of respondents aged 18-34 think weed should be decriminalized, while 28% of those 65 or older want harsher penalties for smoking dope.

Leger vice-president Dave Scholz said Canadians have remained fairly consistent in their attitudes toward pot, but this poll reveals a growing demand for more liberal laws in Ontario. Quebec and British Columbia have traditionally led the charge for pot law reform.

But Scholz said the public opinion numbers aren’t overwhelming enough to necessarily demand swift action by the federal government one way or the other.

“I guess it comes down to what special interest group or what province is the government likely to listen to as they go forward,” he said. “Given that we’re at numbers of half saying decriminalize or legalize, is it the will of the nation? Possibly. Is it the best move forward for the government to take? That’s for them to figure out.”

British Columbians are most open to liberalizing laws, with nearly half who want to legalize the drug and tax it in the same fashion as cigarettes and booze.

Despite much political wrangling over the years, marijuana remains an illegal substance except for patients who receive exemptions from prosecution for medicinal purposes.

The Conservatives, who have tabled a slew of anti-drug initiatives since taking office, have no plan to soften laws.

“Unlike the Liberals, we have no intention of decriminalizing or legalizing marijuana,” said Pamela Stephens, a spokeswoman for Justice Minister Rob Nicholson.

She said the government launched the National Anti-Drug Strategy in 2007 to combat the “dangers and destruction” of drugs, investing $230 million for prevention, helping addicts get off drugs and cracking down on dealers.

“Our message is clear: if you sell or produce drugs, you’ll pay with jail time,” Stephens said.

The Leger online survey of 1,531 Canadians aged 18 or older was conducted July 26-28, and is considered accurate to within 2.5 percentage points.

– Article from Ottawa Sun.