Pot legalization – A promise kept, but Liberals may want to hold off on the confetti

Pot legalization – A promise kept, but Liberals may want to hold off on the confetti

By Dave Korzinski, Research Associate

Rejoice pot activists: on October 17, 2018, marijuana will be legalized in Canada for recreational use. The announcement came in the House of Commons this week after an arduous review and amendment process between the House and the Senate. That latter body passed Bill C-45 with a 52 to 49 vote on Tuesday June 19.

With this news, Justin Trudeau’s federal Liberals deliver on a signature campaign promise – something likely high on the checklist for Liberal strategists eyeing October 2019 with a focus that intensifies with each passing day.

That said, data suggests that the party may not want to overstate this victory. While this is a passionate issue for some, it isn’t one that Canadians put a lot of stock in overall. Indeed, 54 per cent said that it was among the least important issues facing Canada when the Angus Reid Institute asked in 2016. At the time, just one-in-five (19%) viewed it as a high priority.

dave korzinski analysis

Additionally, fewer Canadians plan to directly enjoy the fruits of this legislative progress than some might assume. Just one-in-ten residents (11%) say that they will definitely be smoking legal marijuana when October 17 comes, while the same amount say it’s likely they’ll partake (11%). More than half of Canadians (55%) say they have no plans to toke.

Unfortunately for the federal government, as it looks ahead to the 2019 campaign, previous Angus Reid Institute work suggests that residents might be a bit more upset over well-publicized broken promises with respect to electoral reform and the budget deficit than they will be pleased with this promise kept on pot. At least two-thirds of Canadians said each broken promise was the wrong decision by the Liberals.

dave korzinski analysis

That said, a win is a win. This is an issue that has long been supported by a majority of the population. In fact, despite the lower priority they give the issue, Canadian support for legal pot recently reach two-thirds, both in 2016 and 2017, including roughly 50/50 support versus opposition among Conservatives.

dave korzinski analysis

Canadians wanted more time to prepare and they got it

Some provinces, tasked with organizing their own sale and distribution plans, implementing traffic safety laws, securing a supply of cannabis and tailoring federal rules such as age and personal cultivation limits, requested more time to prepare for legalization when the initial July 1 target was announced. The Angus Reid Institute found that Canadians too were voicing concern as to their provinces readiness. More than half of the country said they were not confident that their province would be ready for July:

dave korzinski analysis

Thus, the delay would have served to assuage some fears among the public, and provincial representatives tasked with preparing for October 17.

Growing at home? Canadians are divided

Not all elements of the legislation are public opinion winners. Before passing Bill C-45, the Senate approved 40 amendments that were proposed by the Red Chamber’s social affairs committee. Among these was one measure that will allow for provinces to ban marijuana from being grown at home. Under the federal law, the government has set a limit of four plants per residence. Provinces that do not wish to ban home-growing outright can follow this standard or reduce the amount as they please.

Quebec and Manitoba have voiced their intention to implement such a ban. Notably, residents of both provinces are more likely to say that individual pot growing should be allowed, rather than banned. Canadians are of two minds on this issue overall, with similar numbers taking each side of the debate, and regional differences of opinion evident:

dave korzinski analysis

Overall, the federal government’s delivery of legalization may very well be a political boon. That said, time will tell which legislative accomplishments Canadian voters value, and how large other broken promises loom.


No comments

Write a comment
No Comments Yet! You can be first to comment this post!

Only registered users can comment.

Sign up for the Angus Reid Institute Mailing List

Receive our latest releases first