Survey: 93% back medical marijuana

November 01, 2006

Misty Harris, Ottawa Citizen

Although Canadians are hardly trading maple leaves for marijuana leaves, newly published findings suggest Cheech and Chong would feel right at home here.

In a nationwide survey, 93 per cent of Canadians indicated they accept the idea of people legally smoking marijuana for health reasons.

Support for the overall legalization of marijuana is also strong, with almost half of Canadians giving it a hearty thumbs up -- the same percentage of people who, in a 2004 Health Canada sponsored survey were found to have smoked cannabis in their lifetime.

Results of the study of 2,400 adults are published in the new book The Boomer Factor: What Canada's Most Famous Generation is Leaving Behind, authored by University of Lethbridge sociologist Reginald Bibby.

The findings are particularly striking in light of last week's Supreme Court ruling in favour of marijuana activist Grant Krieger. He was awarded a new trial after jurors were directed by the judge to find the accused guilty of possessing the drug for the purposes of trafficking, denying Mr. Krieger the right to a trial by jury.

Mr. Krieger, who uses marijuana to cope with multiple sclerosis, has said he shares his supply of the drug, but only with people in medical need.

"Any jury that is representative of Canadians can be expected to accept the general principle that an individual should be able to use marijuana for medicinal purposes," says Mr. Bibby.

"We simply do not have significant variations by almost any variable, starting with age, gender, and even religious service attendance."

In 1975, 26 per cent of Canadians supported the legalization of marijuana; 40 per cent of those aged 18 to 34, 19 per cent of those aged 35 to 54 and 14 per cent of those age 55 or older.

In 2005, 45 per cent supported such a change; 48 per cent of those aged 18 to 34, 48 per cent of those aged 35 to 54, and 38 per cent of those age 55 or older. And Mr. Bibby reports Canadians today are more accepting of marijuana than those figures imply.

"Large numbers of Canadians -- rightly or wrongly -- do not believe its legalization would be detrimental to individuals or society, based in part on their personal experiences with pot," he says.

"If people think it can further help people medically, then relatively few ... feel there is any reason to ban it, anymore than we ban a drug such as morphine."

National figures are considered accurate within three percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

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