A poll shows most people want smoking cannabis to be
decriminalised or made legal.
The latest Herald-DigiPoll survey shows just under a third of
those polled thought smoking cannabis should attract a fine
but not a criminal conviction, while a fifth went further and
said it should be legalised.
Forty-five per cent said it should remain illegal, and 2.6
per cent said they did not know.
Drug Foundation executive director Ross Bell said: "All the
results I've seen in New Zealand recently were overwhelmingly
opposed to reform."
While most National Party supporters (53.8 per cent) favoured
the status quo, almost 45 per cent supported legalisation or
The Government last night remained firm in its stance on
"We do not think there are any benefits for decriminalising
or legalising cannabis, for medicinal purposes or otherwise,
which outweigh the harm it causes to society," said Justice
Minister Judith Collins.
Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne said there was no sense
of any great political appetite for reform.
"If anything, what the debate on psychoactive substances did
among the body politic was reinforce a more conservative
Cannabis is an illegal substance and possession carries a
penalty of a $500 fine or three months' jail or both, though
police exercise discretion.
Labour drug and alcohol spokesman Iain Lees-Galloway said
there was a growing mood for reform.
"We wouldn't look at legalisation in the first instance, but
we want to use the Law Commission report as a starting point
for a conversation."
The commission's report, released three years ago, backed a
three strikes mandatory cautioning regime with an emphasis on
treatment, and advice on legal and health services. A fourth
incident would result in prosecution.
The Green Party calls for no penalties for possession and use
of cannabis for people aged 18 and over, though it still
wants selling cannabis and cultivating for sale to be against
Greens drug and alcohol spokesman Kevin Hague said the poll
results reflected the fact that most people had smoked
"And for most New Zealanders, it is evident that the current
law isn't working. It's causing harm rather than solving it."
New Zealand First favours a citizens-initiated referendum,
while the Act party would opt for a conscience vote if the
issue came up in Parliament.
An Internet Party spokesman said while there was no official
policy yet, strong feedback to the party favoured
decriminalisation - a position that leader Laila Harre
Mr Bell said New Zealanders have some of the highest
cannabis-use rates in the world.
"We have troubling rates of youth cannabis use, and there are
problems associated with that, in terms of mental and
"But we delude ourselves if we think the current criminal
justice model is doing anything about this."
The poll was conducted from June 6 to 15, with a sample size
of 750 and a margin of error of 3.6 per cent.
- by Derek Cheng, NZ Herald