A majority of Canadians are in no hurry to see the legalization of recreational cannabis by Canada Day, a new poll has found.
The Liberal government has said it wants to remove the prohibition on the drug by July, which some provinces and police bodies have said does not give them enough time to get ready.
In a new Nanos poll conducted for The Globe and Mail, only 43 per cent of respondents were in favour of keeping the July 1 deadline. On the other hand, 31 per cent said that legalization should be delayed "to give provinces, cities and police more time to adapt" and 23 per cent said they would prefer to see the drug remain illegal.
Pollster Nik Nanos said the government needs to use the coming months to showcase to the public that everything is in place for the major societal shift.
"There are 54 per cent of Canadians who say it shouldn't go ahead at all or it should be delayed," Mr. Nanos said. "Canadians want to make sure the government gets it right, they are not sure there is a rush."
He said that timing remains a key problem, given that most everyone agrees that the legal market for cannabis will be chaotic early on.
"This actually could be the biggest risk for the government, the issue of timing," Mr. Nanos said. "What is more important for the government is to make sure they do this right out of the gate to make sure that as many Canadians as possible are comfortable with the legalization of marijuana once it happens."
In a recent interview, Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor said that most stakeholders have taken the necessary steps to prepare for the July timeline.
"I'm very confident that we will be able to meet that date," Ms. Petitpas Taylor said. "Most provinces have indicated they feel they will be ready before that date, and that is certainly our aim."
On another issue, the poll asked respondents whether they feel that advertising rules for cannabis should be in keeping with those that apply to alcohol, or as strict as those that apply to tobacco products.
A clear majority (55 per cent) favoured stricter rules compared with those who feel that legalized marijuana should be treated like alcohol (37 per cent).
The findings are in line with the federal government's overall approach to the legalization of cannabis, which is to favour a strictly regulated regime. However, cannabis producers have called for looser rules to allow them to compete with the black market, which already uses aggressive marketing techniques to sell their products through the Internet and illegal dispensaries.
"We should align the restrictions around cannabis so that they are virtually the same as beer, wine and liquor," said Cam Battley, a spokesman for the recently formed Coalition for Responsible Cannabis Branding. "It's the easiest and most pragmatic way to go."
Under the coalition's proposed advertising and marketing guidelines, companies would be able to promote products based on taste, flavour, safety, origins and use. In addition, cannabis products could be promoted on print, television and social-media platforms where at least 70 per cent of the audience is over 18 (or higher depending on a province's legal age of consumption).
At the same time, producers would be forbidden from targeting underage users, promoting the actual consumption of the drug and associating its use with driving or any other skilled activity.
"If you want to reduce youth access, you have to carve away the black market. In order to carve away the black market, you have to unleash market forces," Mr. Battley said. "It's an incredibly sophisticated black market that we are up against. All of their products are branded."
The Nanos poll of 1,000 Canadians was conducted between Dec. 6 and 10. It is considered to be accurate within 3.1 percentage points.