The prohibition on marijuana is increasingly at odds with popular sentiment, according to the results of a recent poll conducted by Ipsos-Reid. Sixty-six per cent of those surveyed would support eliminating punishment for possession of small amounts of cannabis. The region where decriminalizing got the most support? Atlantic Canada, with 72-per cent.
Thatâ€™s a very solid majority. Itâ€™s also a big shift in a short period of time. According to the National Post, an Ipsos-Reid survey in 1987 said just 39-per cent of Canadians supported decriminalization.
Why the shift?
Our guess is many reasons have contributed to the change. Young people who experimented with pot grew up. Some have become doctors and lawyers, politicians and police. The stereotype of the burnout pothead â€“ while based on the real experiences of some users â€“ just doesnâ€™t ring true to a successful generation of recreational users.
The information age has made us harder to shock. How outrageous is marijuana when headlines regale us with stories of cannibals supposedly on bath salts? And with information comes knowledge. The propaganda of reefer madness canâ€™t survive an hourâ€™s research on the Internet. Not that smoking pot doesnâ€™t have mental and physical health ramifications. But it doesnâ€™t seem credible to thoughtful people that it should be in the same category as demonstrably addictive drugs that have the potential to kill when users overdose.
Hypocrisy doesnâ€™t do well in the era of gotcha citizen journalism, either. The government takes in considerable tax revenues from addictive substances with the potential to kill: alcohol and tobacco. A sense of basic fair play may be at work here.
Letâ€™s not forget, either, the debacle of the war on drugs, which has driven billions of dollars into the hands of organized crime while siphoning billions from the pockets of taxpayers. Citizens faced with austerity and a stumbling economy may be questioning the wisdom of using precious police resources and expensive prison cells to prosecute their neighboursâ€™ kids.
Itâ€™s unclear what will happen near-term. What is clear, though, is thereâ€™s a disconnect between the federal criminal code, and the policies most Canadians â€“ especially Atlantic Canadians â€“ want to see enforced.