20% of Canadians smoked pot last year, but more than 30% would if legal, poll suggests

Almost 20 per cent of Canadians reported having consumed marijuana in the past year, but more than 30 per cent said they would do so in the next year if it were legal.

59% of survey respondents support some sort of legalization

About a fifth of Canadians admitted in a recent poll to having smoked pot in the past year, but the survey also suggested that many more would if it were legal. (Edgard Garrido/Reuters)

Almost two out of every 10 Canadians reported having consumed marijuana in the past year, but more than 30 per cent of poll respondents said they would do so in the next year if it were legal.

That was one of the main takeaways of a recent poll on the issue conducted by Forum Research. Forum did a telephone poll with a random sampling of 1,256 Canadians between Nov. 4-7. The poll is considered to have a margin or error of plus or minus three per cent, 19 times out of 20.

Members of the new Liberal government, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, have spoken about their desire to modernize the laws surrounding pot by decriminalizing its use, or even going as far as legalizing it.

According to Forum's poll, a solid majority of Canadians — 59 per cent — support new laws that would legalize, tax and regulate recreational marijuana usage under some conditions.

"Now that marijuana legalization is a likelihood rather than a vague promise, Canadians are considering the issue more closely than in the past," Forum president Lorne Bozinoff said.

The figure is higher than another Forum poll in August found, when 53 per cent of respondents said they'd support some sort of legalization plan.

It's also much higher than the proportion of Canadians who admit to currently partaking in it.

Large potential market

Just under one fifth, or 18 per cent, of those polled said they had used marijuana in the past 12 months. The percentage was higher among young people, at 34 per cent, and among males, at 23 per cent.

But the survey suggests the pool of possible marijuana users would be much larger than it is now if the practice were fully legalized.

Among people who don't currently consume marijuana, 13 per cent said they would be likely to do so if it were legal, and a further four per cent said they would be "very likely" to do so.

Adding those percentages together makes 31 per cent, which is the theoretical pool of people who should be considered potential marijuana users.

Based on Canada's adult population of about 26 million, that's roughly 8 million people across the country.

Details to be ironed out

There was wide disagreement, however, on how marijuana should be manufactured, sold and distributed in a legalized world.

The largest group of people, 45 per cent, were in favour of a system that would see large corporations be licensed to grow marijuana, which would be sold to the public through government agencies, similar to the way liquor is currently handled.

About one-sixth of people, 16 per cent, said they were in favour of a system that would allow private citizens to grow and sell it themselves. A smaller percentage, 12 per cent, think the best way would be for it to be sold in convenience stores.

A further 11 per cent said they preferred another method, but didn't specify which, and a further seven per cent said they did not want to see marijuana legalized in any form.

"[Canadians] are just as much in favour of legalization as they were before the election, if not more, but they want to see it strictly licensed and controlled, not grown in basements and sold in corner stores," Bozinoff said.

"The size of the market, however, should be good news for the potential industry players waiting to open shop here."