Poll reveals wide support for cannabis law reform

The life-threatening reactions to synthetic cannabis are being blamed on some of the drugs being...
When broken down by party, there was growing support among National and New Zealand First voters to not criminalise people for possessing a small amount of cannabis for personal use. Photo: Getty

Sixty percent of National voters want personal possession of cannabis decriminalised or made legal, a poll released just weeks before the election reveals.

Support is even higher among supporters of other parties — with Labour and New Zealand First voters equally in favour of cannabis law reform.

The Drug Foundation commissioned Curia Market Research to poll New Zealanders on their attitudes to drug reform in the lead-up to the September 13 election.

Across all respondents, 65% supported decriminalisation or legalisation, roughly the same proportion as when the poll was conducted last year.

There is even stronger support to let people use cannabis for pain relief . Only 17% of New Zealanders want that to be criminal.

When broken down by party, there was growing support among National and New Zealand First voters to not criminalise people for possessing a small amount of cannabis for personal use.

Sixty percent of National voters supported either legalisation (22%) or decriminalisation (38%) — up from 52% a year ago. Thirty-seven percent wanted cannabis possession to remain illegal.

Support for decriminalisation or legalisation among New Zealand First voters was at 68%, compared to 62% a year ago.

Labour also sits at 68% (no change from last year), while Green Party voters are most in favour of reform at 92% (up from 83% last year).

Drug Foundation executive director Ross Bell said the polling showed New Zealanders continued to strongly support a change to cannabis law.

‘‘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?’’

Parties set out their position on drug reform at a Drug Foundation-organised symposium held at Parliament last month. The Green Party called for full legalisation and the Maori Party supported a move towards decriminalisation — with those parties, Labour, United Future and Act New Zealand all in support of upcoming medicinal cannabis legislation put forward by Green MP Julie Anne Genter.

Parliament is likely to vote next year on the member’s Bill that would go much further in freeing up supply of cannabis for medical use. National has not stated how it will vote on the legislation.

Responding to the conference, Prime Minister Bill English said there were no plans to decriminalise cannabis use, or overhaul drug laws — saying cannabis caused so much harm it should remain illegal.

A spate of deaths linked to synthetic cannabis use has also put the spotlight on drug law.

Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne responded by saying the problems with black-market drugs showed why a regulated testing regime for products was needed but that had been delayed because the Government had banned the use of animal testing to prove whether recreational drugs were low-risk.

Respondents in the poll were read a range of activities relating to cannabis, and were asked if they thought each activity should be legal, or illegal and subject to criminal penalties or illegal but decriminalised — meaning an offence punishable only by a fine with no criminal record, such as a speeding ticket.

Add a Comment