Pro-pot sentiment is on the rise in the Maritimes, especially in Nova Scotia, and a researcher says a majority in the region will soon support full legalization.
A survey published Thursday by Halifax-based Corporate Research Associates Inc. shows Atlantic Canada is split evenly on making marijuana legal for personal use, with 45 per cent of just over 1,500 surveyed supporting and 46 per cent opposing.
Support for the change was highest in Nova Scotia, where a plurality of 49 per cent are already for legalization, with 42 per cent opposed.
Newfoundland and Labrador residents were the second most in favour, with 47 per cent for and 44 per cent against.
“Ten years ago, there wouldn’t have been this level of support for legalization, it might have been half of this,” said Don Mills, chairman and CEO of CRA.
“We think that we may have reached a tipping point in the region, where almost a majority are supporting it. We will cross over that threshold in the not-so-distant future.”
Younger Atlantic Canadians and those with higher levels of education are more likely to support the change, and in as few as four or five years, those supporters will edge out older nay-sayers, Mills said.
Police say the potential for future legalization concerns them.
“Essentially, with any types of drugs comes violence, and we believe it has a negative impact on our community,” said Halifax Regional Police Const. Brian Palmeter.
“I don’t think that, just because the government takes it over, that people who are looking to sell drugs are going to stop selling them, or that it will cease any of that violence between those people,” Palmeter said.
The Lung Association of Nova Scotia, too, warns that many young people underestimate the risks of smoking marijuana, which, they say, contains many of the toxic chemicals found in tobacco products.
“A lot of people think that marijuana smoke isn’t harmful. That’s a misnomer,” said Jayne Norrie, the organization’s manager of health initiatives. “Marijuana smoke is dangerous, and a lot of people don’t realize that.”
The poll conducted between May 10 and June 4 surveyed 1,518 Atlantic Canadians and is considered accurate within 2.5 percentage points.