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Date published: 24th July 2018 | Type: Media release

A new survey conducted by the NZ Drug Foundation shows two thirds of New Zealand voters support changing the country’s outdated cannabis law, with outright legalisation being the most popular option.

Two thirds of those answering the telephone survey want cannabis to be either legalised (35 percent) or decriminalised (32 percent). Only a third want to keep the status quo. Support for legalisation has grown 7 percent since the same question was asked in July 2017. Surveys were previously conducted in July 2017 and July 2016.

People were strongly in favour of medicinal cannabis being readily available for both pain management and terminal illnesses. Only 10 percent want this to stay illegal. For the first time people were asked how they would vote in the planned referendum on legalising cannabis.

“These results show that New Zealanders are ready for a future under which cannabis is regulated. People realise that the way we’re currently dealing with cannabis isn’t working,” said Ross Bell, Executive Director.

“Support for both legalisation and decriminalisation has continued to grow. This is good news for those that support treating drug use as a health issue, not a criminal one. This is a sign that people are ready to vote for change in the cannabis referendum due to happen on or before the 2020 election.”

The percentage of people that support legal or decriminalised access to medicinal cannabis has gone by 10 percent compared with last year: 89 percent say this should be legal or decriminalised for those with a terminal illness, and 87 percent said it should be available for pain relief. In 2017 these figures were 81 percent and 78 percent respectively.

“This sends a strong message to MPs considering the government’s medical cannabis bill which currently does not go far enough to improve access for a large group of patients,” Mr Bell said.

“The strong and growing support for access to medicinal cannabis is a signal to MPs that people expect change. There will be widespread dissapointment if Parliament fails to listen.”

On adult recreational use, there is support by a majority of voters from across the political spectrum to shift away from the punitive criminal model. Over the last two years, support for personal possession to be decriminalised or legalised has increased irrespective of which party respondents vote for: support by National Party voters is up 11 percent, by Labour voters is up 6 percent, by NZ First voters is up 7 percent and by Greens voters is up 14 percent.

For the first time, the survey asked how people would vote in a referendum to legalise the sale of cannabis. The results were split evenly, with 48 percent in favour of legalisation, and 48 percent against.

“With the referendum question and date yet to be set, we’ve got time for people to look at different options from overseas, and learn what model would work best for New Zealand. As the debate progresses, we can expect more facts on the table, and for people to become well-informed,” Mr Bell said.

“We’re looking forward to this important discussion. From our perspective, a tightly regulated cannabis model would work best to protect young people, undermine the criminal black market, and remove the burden of criminalisaton. This brings with it social justice, public health and commuity safety benefits.”

Poll summary

Here are the statements that were put to callers in Question 1:

“I’m going to read out a range of activities relating to cannabis. For each activity can you please tell me whether you think that activity should be legal, or illegal and subject to criminal penalties or illegal but decriminalised which means it is an offence punishable only by a fine, like a speeding ticket and there is no criminal record. So the three choices are legal, illegal or decriminalised.

  • Possessing a small amount of cannabis for personal use
  • Growing a small amount of cannabis for personal use
  • Growing a small amount of cannabis for giving or selling to your friends
  • Growing and/or using cannabis for any medical reasons such as to alleviate pain
  • Growing and/or using cannabis for medical reasons if you have a terminal illness.
  • Selling cannabis from a store.

Latest 2018 results

  Illegal Decriminalise Legal Decriminalise/legalise
Personal possession 31% 32% 35% 67%
Personal growing 38% 29% 32% 61%
Growing for friends 69% 18% 12% 30%
For pain relief 13% 17% 70% 87%
For terminal pain relief 10% 17% 72% 89%
Selling from a store 60% 9% 29% 38%

 

 Decriminalise/Legalise, previous years

  2016 2017
Personal possession 64% 65%

Personal growing

52% 55%

Growing for friends

21% 26%
For pain relief 79% 78%
For terminal pain relief 82% 81%
Selling from a store 30% 34%

 

The second question was as follows: “The Government may hold a referendum on the sale of cannabis. If there was a referendum seeking to legalise the sale of cannabis, how would you vote in that referendum – in favour of legalising the sale, or against?”

Probed Party vote (all voters)

  National Labour NZ First Green Undecided Total
In favour 36% 57% 68% 84% 45% 49%
Against 63% 39% 32% 10% 44% 47%
Unsure/refuse 1% 4% 0% 6% 10% 3%
             
Total 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100%

 

The Poll was conducted by Curia Market Research from Monday 2 July to Tuesday 17 July 2018. The sample was drawn from a random selection of 15,000 eligible NZ voters contactable on a landline. 943 people agreed to participate. The results were weighted to reflect the overall voting adult population in terms of gender, age and area. The maximum sampling error (for a results of 50%) is +/- 3.2% at the 95% confidence level. 

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