Pot Views Changing

Mar 19, 2013

For polit­i­cal sci­ence pun­dits, it’s a new high.  The lat­est pub­lic sur­vey shows more than two in every five Lethbridge-area peo­ple agree with recre­ational use of mar­i­juana.  And even more – close to 79 per cent – say it should be read­ily avail­able as a med­ical treat­ment. The grow­ing sup­port for decrim­i­nal­iz­ing the use of mar­i­juana, from 42 per cent of local res­i­dents who responded, is reported by the Cit­i­zen Soci­ety Research Lab at Leth­bridge Col­lege.  Approval was even higher ( 42.7 per cent ) in Coal­dale, also included in the college’s twice-yearly pub­lic opin­ion sur­veys. Nearly 45 per cent of Alber­tans respond­ing to the college’s province-wide poll last fall were also in favour – and the strongest sup­port, 48.2 per cent, came from across south­ern Alberta. “It’s the ( baby ) boomers and the par­ents of kids who might get ‘busted’ with a small amount of pot,” says Faron Ellis, polit­i­cal sci­en­tist at Leth­bridge Col­lege. They’re hop­ing to see Cana­dian law changed, as vot­ers were in Col­orado and Wash­ing­ton state.  Real­is­ti­cally, Alber­tans know the Stephen Harper gov­ern­ment stands opposed. But it’s the provin­cial gov­ern­ment that appoints the judges, he adds, and they’re not harsh with first-time offend­ers. The new tele­phone sur­vey – taken Feb.  9 and 10, with 835 ran­domly selected adults in Leth­bridge and Coal­dale – showed Wil­drose party sup­port­ers more likely ( more than 39 per cent ) than Con­ser­v­a­tives ( 33.6 ) to sup­port decrim­i­nal­iza­tion.  New Democ­rats were most strongly sup­port­ive at 65.5 per cent. Wil­drose par­ti­sans were also more per­mis­sive than Tories on other issues, Ellis found.  Cit­i­zens who said they vote Wil­drose also voiced stronger sup­port for med­ical use of mar­i­juana, for doctor-assisted sui­cide and for a woman’s right to choose an abor­tion. They’re reflect­ing a lib­er­tar­ian view that’s also sur­faced among Harper’s MPs, he points out. “They’re say­ing we should have less gov­ern­ment inter­fer­ence in our eco­nomic lives, but also in our per­sonal lives.” Ellis says approval for the pre­scribed use of mar­i­juana to coun­ter­act pain and other med­ical symp­toms has been strong, ever since the col­lege began its twice-a-year opin­ion sur­veys.  It’s remained in the 70–80 per cent range over the last decade, peak­ing at 80.1 per cent in 2012. Sup­port con­tin­ues to grow on another issue, a woman’s right to choose.  Despite in-your-face cam­paigns by some reli­gious groups, Ellis reports pro-choice responses have passed 80 per cent for the first time. “It appears their behav­iour has failed to stop the trend to more and more sup­port” for choice, he says. Per­haps sur­pris­ingly, the lat­est poll found 87.4 per cent of Leth­bridge and Coal­dale res­i­dents who attend church as least “sev­eral times a year” sup­port women’s choice. That fig­ure grows to 94 per cent of those who said they attend “sel­dom or never,” a group that includes about 52 per cent of all res­i­dents polled. A bare major­ity of those who claimed to attend at least twice a month were also in favour, reflect­ing dif­fer­ences between the city’s reli­gious lib­er­als and con­ser­v­a­tives. Ellis says the sur­vey also found most south­ern Alber­tans agree on a once-contentious topic.  Same-sex mar­riage is sup­ported by more than 83.8 per cent of those who attend church occa­sion­ally as well as 85.2 per cent who said “sel­dom or never.” Among those who say they attend very reg­u­larly ( about 30 per cent of the pop­u­la­tion ) there’s close to 40 per cent sup­port. When the ques­tion was asked 10 years ago – before all provinces had made the change – Ellis says about one-third of Leth­bridge peo­ple polled were in favour of les­bian or gay cou­ples mar­ry­ing.  But now, for the first time, that pop­u­lar sup­port has passed 70 per cent. “South­ern Alber­tans have accepted that as a just and legit­i­mate aspect of Cana­dian soci­ety,” he says. Pub­lic sup­port for a still-controversial issue, doctor-assisted death, has also grown.  Nearly 75 per cent of those respond­ing to this month’s sur­vey voiced their approval, com­pared with 66.4 per cent a year ago and 61.9 per cent in 2011.  More than 82 per cent of those who some­times attend church were in favour, vs.  about 44 per cent who attend fre­quently. In con­trast, Ellis says, more than 60 per cent of those who attend fre­quently were in favour of the death penalty for first-degree mur­der – — nearly as high as the 66.6 per cent who don’t attend. Church atten­dance isn’t an absolute pre­dic­tor of south­ern Alber­tans’ atti­tudes, Ellis admits.  On some issues, he says, it depends on whether peo­ple lean more heav­ily on Old Tes­ta­ment vengeance or New Tes­ta­ment for­give­ness. The Leth­bridge Col­lege sur­vey, con­ducted by super­vised col­lege stu­dents and dis­tance edu­ca­tion stu­dents of Athabasca Uni­ver­sity, polled cit­i­zens whose phone num­bers were selected at ran­dom.  Its mar­gin of error is stated as 3.4 per­cent­age points, plus or minus, 19 times out of 20. Source: Leth­bridge Her­ald (CN AB) Copy­right: 2013 The Leth­bridge Her­ald Con­tact: letters@​lethbridgeherald.​com Web­site: http://​www​.leth​bridge​herald​.com/ Author: Dave Mabell

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Pot Views Changing

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