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Community Attitudes to Cannabis Use in Western Australia

NCJ Number
Journal of Drug Issues Volume: 26 Issue: 4 Dated: (Fall 1996) Pages: 783-804
S Lenton; C Ovenden
Date Published
A telephone survey of 400 people in Western Australia gathered information on attitudes to laws relating to the possession of marijuana for personal use.
The data were collected as part of a telephone survey of community attitudes toward the reduction of harm associated with illicit drug use, including the provision of needles to drug injectors and the possibility of changing the marijuana laws. The randomly selected survey participants included 43.5 percent males and 54.8 percent females ages 17 and over. The questionnaire took an average of 25 minutes to administer. It included both closed and open-ended items and had five Likert scale items related to marijuana. Results revealed that more than one-third of the participants believed that marijuana should be made as legal as alcohol. Support for decriminalization increased from 64 percent to 71.5 percent when possible penalties associated with decriminalization were described. In addition, when penalties were described, more women than men favored decriminalization, but age, political affiliation, and city or country of residence no longer predicted such an attitude. Almost two-thirds of the participants believed that many people used marijuana without experiencing serious problems and that the court system was overburdened by minor marijuana offenses. Moreover, half the participants believed that it would not be harmful to the community if people were legally able to grow marijuana for their personal use. Findings suggest considerable community support for removing criminal penalties for simple marijuana offenses. Tables, figure, notes, and 19 references (Author abstract modified)