SOURCE: NRG Research Group

NRG Research Group

SOURCE: Peak Communicators

Peak Communicators

March 14, 2017 08:00 ET

Marijuana Legalization Splits Canada

Economic potential more compelling than social impact

VANCOUVER, BC--(Marketwired - March 14, 2017) - A new poll by NRG Research Group and Peak Communicators reveals that Canadians have mixed perceptions on the potential impact of legalized marijuana.

The legalization of marijuana is a contested topic in Canada as well as among our neighbours in the United States. Marijuana legalization was a notable component of the Liberal Party's platform during the 2015 federal election campaign. While a number of states have now voted to legalize and regulate marijuana for medical and recreational use, marijuana use remains against the law federally.

Our survey shows that one-half (51%) of Canadians are in favour of the legalization of marijuana in Canada. One-third (33%) are in opposition, while 14% neither support nor oppose at this time. Of note, Canadians aged 18-34 (60%) show the strongest support compared to older adults. Manitobans (59%) and British Columbians (57%) are particularly likely to show support for legalization, whereas Quebecers are the most likely to oppose legalization (37%). Perhaps not surprisingly, current marijuana users are much more likely than non-users to support legalization (83% versus 46% support).

"It appears Canadians have an economic perspective in mind as they consider the issue of legalizing marijuana in the country," says Andrew Enns, President of NRG Research Group. "A majority (63%) of Canadians support a specific sales tax on marijuana if it were to be legalized." Support for a sales tax on marijuana is particularly strong in Western Canada, with 88% of Saskatchewan residents, 73% of Albertans, and 70% of BC residents in support of such a tax. Legalization is also anticipated to drive sales away from underground markets towards legal channels as one-half (51%) believe that the sale of marijuana by organized crime groups will decrease.

However, the public's perceptions of the social implications with legalization warrant consideration as policy makers approach this issue. Six in ten Canadians (59%) believe that the legalization of marijuana would increase use by minors; those who oppose legalization (85%) are particularly likely to espouse this view, as are those who do not currently use marijuana (62%). An overwhelming majority (87%) think that marijuana sales, if legalized, should be limited to adults in the same manner as alcohol and tobacco. Two-thirds (67%) believe that legalization would result in an increase of people driving under the influence of marijuana.

There is little consensus on the relative danger of using marijuana relative to that of drinking alcohol, for adults. One-third (32%) think that marijuana is more dangerous than alcohol, while 46% think that marijuana is no more dangerous than alcohol. Adults under 35 (56%) are more likely than older adults to perceive marijuana use as no more dangerous than drinking alcohol, as are those who support legalization (65%) relative to those who oppose or are undecided on the issue.

Interestingly, there is a very large gap in perceptions between people's own likelihood to increase their consumption of marijuana and people's assumptions about use in marijuana among other adults. Three-quarters (74%) of Canadians believe that the use of marijuana by adults for recreational purposes would increase if marijuana were to be legalized. However, only 30% of current users would likely increase their consumption and 17% of current non-users would likely consider using marijuana in the future assuming that marijuana use were legalized in Canada.

These results are from a provincially-representative Canada-wide study of 1,000 online respondents conducted by NRG Research Group on February 23rd to 27th, 2017*. The poll was conducted in English and French. Results were weighted to reflect the actual age and gender distribution in each region. Margin of error is not provided for online polls or other non-probability samples.

Notes to editor:

*One thousand Canadians were asked the following questions:

  1. "Do you personally support or oppose the legalization of marijuana in Canada?"
    1. 51 percent say support, 33 percent say oppose, and 14 percent say neither support nor oppose (2 percent don't know or prefer not to answer)
    2. 60 percent of those under 35 say support, compared with 49 percent of those 35-54 and 46 percent of those 55+
    3. 51 percent of men as well as 51 percent of women say support; however, 36 percent of men say oppose while only 30 percent of women say oppose
  2. "What impact do you believe the legalization of marijuana will have on each of the following issues?"