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News (Media Awareness Project) - CN AB: The Politics Of Pot
Title:CN AB: The Politics Of Pot
Published On:2012-01-26
Source:Lethbridge Herald (CN AB)
Fetched On:2012-01-30 06:02:55

Marijuana decriminalization may be prominent on party platforms on
the federal political landscape, but it's not necessarily on the
minds of southern Albertans.

While the federal Liberals and now the NDP have both announced their
official support for the decriminalization of the drug, a recent poll
of Albertans shows pot advocates are still in the minority. In 2011,
only 39.5 per cent of Albertans polled were in favour of
decriminalizing marijuana for recreational use, versus 76.5 per cent
in favour of medical marijuana, which is already legal.

Southern Albertans thought along the same lines as the rest of the
province, with 39.6 per cent and 76.1 per cent in favour of
recreational and medical marijuana, respectively. The Lethbridge
College public opinion poll shows public support for
decriminalization is climbing, but slowly, still far from taking hold
in the majority of the population.

And that won't change any time soon, despite two official opposition
parties showing their support, according to the study's author,
political scientist Faron Ellis.

"When you do see a critical mass of the political leadership in the
country moving to one side or the other, it can have a significant
impact on public opinion. As with same sex marriage or abortion
choice, you're never going to have unanimity even if all of the
parties are on the same side of the issue," he said.

"It would likely take a significant shift in the Conservatives'
position to . . . move support for decriminalizing recreational
marijuana to a majority, at least in Alberta."

And the Conservatives' position on marijuana doesn't seem likely to
change in the immediate future, particularly given the Harper
government's proposed tough crime legislation. "It's just not an
issue that any party is going to sway a significant number of voters
on," he said.

But, Ellis conceded, "having both the Liberals and the New Democrats,
that is unity on the opposition, making those arguments (for
de-criminalization) on a regular basis, it will certainly keep the
issue alive," fuelling a debate that's been going strong in Canadian
politics since the 1970s, supported by anti-prohibition lobbyists.

It's a battle Tara Cartwright has been fighting locally for years.

"I believe the Liberals are probably putting it on their platform
because they're looking for votes. In Alberta, because we're such a
Conservative stronghold, it's a huge fight for us," said Cartwright,
the president of the Southern Alberta Cannabis Club.

She recently received her license to use medical marijuana and says
she's hopeful more Liberal and NDP backing will push the Canadian
government toward not only decriminalizing marijuana, but creating a
regulated industry similar to alcohol and tobacco sales.

"It's something that could really stimulate the country's economic
growth," Cartwright said. "I think people need to be aware that
prohibition is very harmful to our youth . . . It's easier for them
to go and sell pot than to go and get an education."

Still, Cartwright says making marijuana decriminalization an election
issue could boost voter turnout across the country.

"I really believe that if legalization was on the ballot as an open
forum for all of us to vote on, you would find and see more people
turning up at the polls," she said. "I am optimistic. We're talking
about it now."

"I think that's a good thing and I think we will see some change."
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