British Columbians are Split on Whether Canada and BC are Ready for Recreational Marijuana Legalization

While residents are supportive of the tax revenues, decriminalization, new jobs and safety controls that marijuana legalization will bring, they are very concerned about addiction, impaired driving and unwanted second-hand smoke.

Vancouver, BC – According to the latest Insights West Poll, although British Columbians continue to be supportive of marijuana legalization in Canada, residents are divided on whether the country is ready for this and have significant concerns about several aspects of its legalization.

British Columbians continue to follow the progress of marijuana legalization with a good deal of interest and remain supportive of the new legislation. As with our previous tracking, a solid majority of British Columbians (79%, +3 since an Insights West poll conducted in October 2017) say they are familiar with discussions related to marijuana legalization, including 19% who are “very familiar”. Despite a slight drop (-7) since last year, British Columbians also continue to be supportive of legalization overall, with 63% support split nearly evenly between those who “strongly support” (30%) and those who “somewhat support” (33%) it. Only a minority (33%) are opposed (20% “strongly”, 13% “somewhat”). Not surprisingly, marijuana users are much more familiar with the issue (92% familiar—including 34% “very familiar”) and VERY supportive of legalization overall (62% “strongly” and 30% “somewhat” support it).

With just over a month remaining until the Cannabis Act comes into force, British Columbians are divided on whether the nation is prepared for recreational marijuana legalization. Almost half (46%) think Canada is ready for this, while a similar proportion (47%) feel that it is not, including one-in-four (25%) who feel that Canada is “very unready”.

Residents are only slightly more positive when evaluating BC’s ability to cope with the new regulations. Half (50%) feel that the province is ready for legalization, while 45% disagree.

Despite overall support for legalization, BC residents have a wide list of concerns surrounding this inevitability. At least three-in-five agree that marijuana legalization may affect the ability of some Canadians to enter the USA (77%), will lead to more cases of impaired driving (72%, +17 since an Insights West poll conducted in October 2016) and will make it more difficult to avoid second-hand smoke (64%), while around half feel that the BC government will mismanage the marijuana distribution and retail system (57%), that marijuana is addictive (56%), that it will have negative workplace safety or productivity implications (54%) and that minors will have easier access to it (53%).

Fewer residents are concerned that marijuana legalization will lead to more long-term negative health effects (47%), have a negative agricultural impact (45%), may lead people to try other, more dangerous drugs (41%, +5), which only 13% of regular marijuana users agree with, lead to increased risks for mental illnesses (39%, +12), or that legalization will have a negative impact on Canada’s relationship with the USA (34%).

However, residents also believe that there will be a number of positive outcomes once recreational marijuana becomes legal. At least three-in-four agree that more people will be able to use marijuana to help with pain and illness (83%), that it will generate tax revenues that can be used to benefit all Canadians (82%) and that the marijuana industry will create new jobs for Canadians (76%), a benefit that 94% (+18%) of regular users agree with.

A large majority also believe that legalization will allow police and courts to focus on other things, instead of chasing and arresting marijuana producers, traffickers and dealers (73%) and that it will result in improved quality and safety control (59%).

However, residents are split on whether legalization will decrease gang violence associated with the illegal drug trade (46% agree, 45% disagree) and only a few agree that it will make it harder for minors to have access to the drug (22%).

“Despite high levels of support for the upcoming legalization of marijuana, British Columbians are questioning the state of readiness for its introduction as they have elevated concerns about a number of potential problems that seem to outweigh the potential benefits of legalization,” says Steve Mossop, President of Insights West. “We will continue to track these perceived concerns and benefits to see if some of the issues can be addressed over time.”

Almost a quarter (23%) of British Columbians admit to currently consuming marijuana (smoked or in any other form), at least a few times a year—this includes those who partake “several times a day” (3%), “once a day” (2%), “a few times a week” (3%), “a few times a month” (4%) or “a few times a year” (11%).

When recreational marijuana does become legal, even a few non-users show an interest in trying it. Almost one-in-five (19%) say they may be likely to try it in any form, though 11% in this group admit they aren’t “too likely”. Non-users seem particularly curious about trying edibles (1% “very likely”, 10% “somewhat likely”), and oil (2% “very likely”, 8% “somewhat likely”).

About Insights West:

Insights West is a progressive, Western-based, full-service marketing research company. It exists to serve the market with insights-driven research solutions and interpretive analysis through leading-edge tools, normative databases, and senior-level expertise across a broad range of public and private sector organizations. Insights West is based in Vancouver and Calgary.

About this Release:

Results are based on an online study conducted from August 31 – September 3, 2018, among a representative sample of 851 BC adults, who are members of the Angus Reid Forum. The data has been statistically weighted according to Canadian census figures for age, gender and region. The margin of error—which measures sample variability—is +/- 3.4 percentage points. Discrepancies between totals are due to rounding. Click here to view the detailed data tabulations.

For further information, please contact:

Steve Mossop
President, Insights West
778 379 1140
stevemossop@insightswest.com