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Date published: 19th August 2017 | Type: Media release

Public support for cannabis law reform is as strong as ever, a new poll conducted for the NZ Drug Foundation shows. The Drug Foundation is urging political parties to make firm commitments to health-focused drug law during this election campaign.

Almost two thirds of those surveyed want cannabis to be either legalised (28%) or decriminalised (37%). This split matches the numbers from a survey one year ago when 64% were in favour of change. See the results of the 2016 poll.

“New Zealanders continue to show strong support for a change to cannabis law, and for good reason,” says Executive Director Ross Bell.  

“The current system is broken. Getting a criminal conviction for possessing cannabis ruins peoples’ lives and creates huge downstream costs for society.”

“A regulated approach will usher in controls on quality, price and availability of cannabis, along with more education, prevention and treatment. The public get this – why don’t our political leaders?”

Poll results show 60 percent of National voters support legal or decriminalised possession for personal use (up from 52% a year ago). NZ First voters sit at 68 percent compared with 62 percent a year ago. Green Party voters are again the strongest supporters of change, with 92 percent for decriminalisation or legalisation (up from 83 percent in July 2016). Support for medical cannabis remains very high, at around 80 percent.

“Once again we see the cross party nature of support for change. Both National and NZ First voters are more strongly in favour of reform than last year,” Mr Bell says.

“People who vote Labour are most frequently in the unsure camp. For instance, 12 percent are unsure about allowing legal sales from stores. It’s a sign this group of voters is looking for leadership from the party they support.”

Even when it comes to the controversial idea of allowing sales of cannabis in stores, there is an across the board increase in the percentages being comfortable with sales between friends and from retail outlets. In 2016, 64 percent wanted this to be illegal whilst this year 58 percent do.

“This entrenched and strong level of support for reform now puts the heat on political parties to make firm commitments about where they stand on this. Many of the smaller parties have already outlined their manifestos, but the two big parties either stubbornly cling to the failed status quo or make wishy-washy platitudes. We deserve better than that,” Mr Bell says.

“Our political leaders need to keep an open mind and learn from the successes of other countries who have pursued health-focused reform. It’s also time for the big parties to be clear to voters about their policies and commitments for drug law reform for the next term of Parliament,” said Mr Bell.

Poll details

Here are the statements that were put to callers:

"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.
Cannabis opinion poll July 2017
 IllegalDecriminaliseLegalLegal+Decrim (2017)Legal+Decrim (2016)
Personal possession 31% 37% 28% 65% 64%
Personal growing 41% 32% 23% 55% 52%
Growing for friends 69% 16% 10% 26% 21%
For pain relief 17% 21% 57% 78% 79%
For terminal pain relief 15% 22% 59% 81% 80%
Selling from a store 57% 11% 23% 34% 30%

The Poll was conducted by Curia Market Research from 3 July to Tuesday 18 July 2017. The sample was drawn from a random selection of 15,000 eligible NZ voters contactable on a landline. 938 people agreed to participate. The maximum sampling error (for a result of 50%) is +/- 3.2%, at the 95% confidence level. 

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