Poll suggests two thirds of Canadians want possession of small pot amounts decriminalized

REUTERS/Rick Wilking/FilesA new poll suggests there's a growing disconnect between Canadians and their government over marijuana.

The Ipsos Reid poll released Monday indicated about two-thirds of those surveyed support decriminalizing possession of small amounts of pot.

The poll, conducted last month, showed 32 per cent of respondents strongly supported and 34 per cent somewhat supported the idea of eliminating fines or other penalties for having a little cannabis.

The survey, commissioned by Postmedia News and Global TV, indicated support for decriminalization was strongest in Atlantic Canada (72 per cent), and in B.C., Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Ontario, at 69 per cent.

Not surprisingly, Alberta showed the least support at 42 per cent.

The results were released as pot fanciers wrapped up Cannabis Day celebrations, which coincide with Canada Day.

Ipsos Reid president Darrell Bricker told Postmedia News the results of the June 18-25 poll follow a rising trend towards decriminalization among Canadians over the last two decades.

"It's all about tolerance," he said. "There's a general trend in Canadian values and it's really about, 'live and let live. Don't tell me how to live my life. If you're different from me, that's OK. It's my job to learn how to tolerate that.'"

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Support for the idea isn't coming from slackers, either. The poll found 75 per cent of those earning more than $100,000 a year think pot possession should be decriminalized.

Support for decriminalization has grown on both sides of the 49th Parallel, including from former Vancouver mayors and B.C. attorneys general, as more realize the "War on Drugs" seems unwinnable, the Seattle Post Intelligencer noted recently.

But the Conservative government has stated it has no plans to soften criminal sanctions against marijuana possession contained in its recently-passed tough-on-crime legislation.

While Justice Minister Rob Nicholson has contended the law's mandatory minimum jail sentences are aimed at traffickers, critics say they can also ensnare people who grow a few plants for their own use.

Postmedia News noted Prime Minister Stephen Harper ruled out decriminalization while attending the Summit of the Americas last April, despite acknowledging existing efforts to stem the drug trade aren't working.

The poll surveyed 1,009 Canadians via Ipsos Reid's online panel and had a national margin of error of 3.1 percentage points.