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A man smokes a joint at the Fill the Hill marijuana rally on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Sunday, April 20, 2014. (Justin Tang/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
A man smokes a joint at the Fill the Hill marijuana rally on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Sunday, April 20, 2014. (Justin Tang/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Majority of Canadians agree pot should be legal: poll Add to ...

A strong majority of Canadians agree with the Liberal government’s plan to legalize marijuana, and half of them feel users should be able to grow their own pot at home, a new Globe and Mail/Nanos Research poll has found.

The poll also found that Canadians would prefer that cannabis be sold in dedicated dispensaries or pharmacies than through a liquor store, which is the preferred choice of Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne.

Justin Trudeau first promised in 2013 to legalize marijuana, a drug that has been prohibited in Canada since 1923.

Now Prime Minister, he has called on Bill Blair, the former Toronto police chief, to come up with the best model to legally distribute the drug for recreational purposes to adults, while finding ways to keep it out of the hands of children.

The poll of 1,000 Canadians found that legalizing marijuana is supported or somewhat supported by 68 per cent of the population.

British Columbia leads the way with 75-per-cent overall support for legalization, while the plan has only 55-per-cent support in the Prairies.

On the other hand, 30 per cent of the population is opposed or somewhat opposed to the legalization of marijuana.

Pollster Nik Nanos said the government has convinced the population of the wisdom of its promise, but that public consultations are still needed to determine how to proceed.

“Canadians are on board, but that being said, once you get into the details, people have some concerns and questions,” Mr. Nanos said. “The challenge for the Liberals will be the implementation of the legalization of marijuana and how that is going to work.”

A major concern shared by 51 per cent of Canadians is that legalization will actually lead to increased drug use by people under 21 (compared with 45 per cent who do not agree).

However, 57 per cent of Canadians do not agree that marijuana is a “gateway drug” that leads to more harmful substances, compared with 40 per cent who agree with the statement.

Deciding who gets to legally grow and sell marijuana will be a multibillion-dollar decision for the government.

The country’s biggest pharmacies are looking at the market, while provincial liquor boards are presenting themselves as the natural destination for legal pot, arguing they already have experience in selling a controlled substance to adult customers.

At the same time, a growing number of illegal pot dispensaries are operating across the country, officially to serve the medical marijuana community.

The poll, which allowed more than one answer on this question, found that respondents favoured dedicated marijuana dispensaries (44 per cent) and pharmacies (43 per cent) over regulated liquor stores (36 per cent).

Convenience stores and grocery stores were far behind at 3 per cent, while 14 per cent of respondents said it should not be sold anywhere.

Canadians are split on homegrown marijuana: 49 per cent of them agree or somewhat agree with a do-it-yourself system, while 48 per cent disagree.

The government will eventually have to decide, but it will be expected to impose limits on how many plants can be grown at home and whether the fruits of this labour can be shared.

Mr. Blair, who is the parliamentary secretary to the minister of justice, refused to speculate last week on who will be able to grow and sell marijuana.

He also refused to lay out a timeline for the work of a new federal-provincial task force, which will lead broad consultations on the matter, and the ensuing changes to the Criminal Code.

The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse said last week that once marijuana is legalized, it should be distributed through a tightly regulated system – in which making a profit is not the objective.

“A public-health framework means preventing a revenue-driven approach, even within government-regulated sales,” CCSA policy adviser Rebecca Jesseman said at a public hearing held by the Senate Liberal caucus.

The Nanos Research random survey, conducted last week by telephone and online, offers a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

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