A new survey of 1,000 adult Manitobans reveals that almost one-quarter of those surveyed said that they would consider smoking marijuana if it was made legal, almost double the number of those who admitted to using pot over the last twelve months.
The Winnipeg Free Press/Probe Research Inc. telephone poll asked participants, “If marijuana becomes legal in Canada, how likely would you be to use it even just once?” and found that nearly one-quarter of a million Manitoban adults (24 per cent) said that they would be either “very likely” to use (13 per cent) or “somewhat likely” (11 per cent). The 24 per cent is closing in on double the number of those who reported using marijuana during the past year (13 per cent).
The results came as a surprise to pollsters. “That’s a significant market,” said Probe research associate Mary Agnes Welch told the Winnipeg Free Press. “It’s a little more than I thought.”
The poll recorded favourable responses to be highest among young men aged 18 to 34, where 37 per cent said they’d be likely to use legalized marijuana and lowest among those aged 55 and higher, where a smaller but still significant 15 per cent said they’d be likely to give it a try.
According to a 2012 Canadian Community Health Survey, an estimated 43 per cent of Canadians aged 15 or older report having tried marijuana at least once in their lifetime, while 33.5 per cent say they’d used it more than once. Numbers are relatively stable over the decade between 2002 and 2012, with a decline by one-third in past-year use by youth aged 15 to 17 and a slight increase in past-year use by those aged 25 to 44.
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The new poll showed little variation in responses across income brackets in Manitoba, with those upper-middle income earners responding positively in slightly lower numbers (23 per cent said they would be likely to use legal marijuana). In terms of education, residents with some post-secondary responded most positively (32 per cent likely to use) in comparison to those with high school or less (22 per cent) or post-secondary graduates (22 per cent).
The poll found a rural/urban divide, with 28 per cent of Winnipeg residents saying they’d likely use marijuana in comparison to 19 per cent of rural Manitobans. Interestingly, political divides were only somewhat evident, as 32 per cent of Liberal voters responded positively, compared to 26 per cent of NDPers and 19 per cent of PC supporters.
“I think there is a growing acceptance of this,” says Welch. ”Even with the Tories, close to 20 per cent said they were interested. Do you think that would’ve happened 10 years ago?”
The federal government plans to release its plans for marijuana legalization sometime in the new year. The federal task force on marijuana legalization recently delivered its recommendations on legalization, which included setting a legal age of 18 for marijuana use and restricting public possession to under 30 grams of marijuana per person.