Public Support for Drug Law Reform

NORML wants to make drug law reform the hot topic of any election campaign.

After years of campaigning by thousands of individuals across all parties, there is now strong public support for drug law reform.

  • On 28 June 2014, the New Zealand Herald reported “Most people want to see cannabis either made legal or decriminalised”

    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.
    While most National Party supporters (53.8 per cent) favoured the status quo, almost 45 per cent supported legalisation or decriminalisation.
    Labour drug and alcohol spokesman Iain Lees-Galloway said there was a growing mood for reform.
    Greens drug and alcohol spokesman Kevin Hague said the poll results reflected the fact that most people had smoked cannabis.
    “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 personally supported.

  • A Campbell Live survey on 16 April 2014 found 84 percent of respondents said yes “it is time to decriminalise cannabis for personal use”.
  • In July 2013 TV3’s 3rd Degree reported 98% of respondents agreed medicinal cannabis should be allowed.
  • On 22 May 2013 TV3’s The Vote debated cannabis law reform and found “Viewers voted overwhelming in favour of decriminalisation, with 72 percent voting yes and just 28 percent voting no.
  • TV3′s Campbell Live Mon, 26 Sep 2011, asked viewers “Should cannabis be decriminalised?” and 72% replied yes by text or email.
  • A TV3/TNZ poll from November 2006 found 63 per cent of respondents support legalising marijuana for pain relief.
  • A pre-election Sunday Star-Times poll on September 4th, 2005, showed 37% support for “decriminalisation” of cannabis, and 55% opposition. Among the new generation of Kiwis – voters aged under 30 – support was at 45%.
  • A UMR Insight poll of 750 people aged over 18 published in The Dominion in August 2000 found sixty per cent of New Zealanders favour law reform. 41 per cent want to decriminalise cannabis, and an additional 19 per cent want cannabis legalised. The strongest support came from Green Party voters, with 79 per cent in favour of law reform. 67 per cent of Labour voters favour changing the law, as do 65 per cent of Alliance voters and 56 per cent of ACT voters. National voters were 54 per cent in favour of law reform. Support for a law change is strongest among high income earners, with 67 per cent of those on $50,000 to $70,000 a year in favour.
  • A One News/Colmar Brunton poll in April 2000 also found support for decriminalising cannabis had grown since their last poll. Of those surveyed 55% approved law changes, while 40% were opposed.
  • A TV3/CM Research poll in 1996 found that 88% favoured introducing instant fines for small-scale cannabis use, 65% favoured “decriminalisation” and 35% supported “legalisation”.

While opinion polls do vary, they confirm that at least one million NZ voted support some form of cannabis law reform. Let’s use our electoral muscle!

Why do Kiwis support drug law reform?

For most young people, it is a question of personal freedom.  And, most parents and grandparents don’t want their children/grandchildren criminalised…

Prompted by NORML, over 3500 Kiwis made submissions to the Law Commission supporting our proposals:

  • decriminalisation of all drugs – “it’s a health issue, not a crime”;
  • safe, legal, medicinal marijuana;
  • regulated (eg. adults-only) taxable market for cannabis and other low-risk drugs  – “separating the markets for low-risk and high-risk drugs”;
  • the current law is racist and discriminatory.

Background

The Law Commission review (Controlling and Regulating Drugs, May 2011) was the first official review of the NZ Misuse of Drugs Act 1975 to be conducted by a body independent of politicians and government departments. It’s key recommendations were:

  • A mandatory cautioning scheme for all personal possession and use offences that come to the attention of the police, removing minor drug offenders from the criminal justice system and providing greater opportunities for those in need of treatment to access it.
  • A full scale review of the current drug classification system which is used to determine restrictiveness of controls and severity of penalties, addressing existing inconsistencies and focusing solely on assessing a drug’s risk of harm, including social harm.
  • Making separate funding available for the treatment of offenders through the justice sector to support courts when they impose rehabilitative sentences to address alcohol and drug dependence problems;
  • Consideration of a pilot drug court, allowing the government to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of deferring sentencing of  some  offenders until they had undergone court-imposed alcohol and/or drug treatment

The Global Commission on Drug Policy report (www.globalcommissionondrugs.org) issued in June 2011 made an even stronger case for law reform in NZ and worldwide.

  • Failure of prohibitionist policies is worldwide: The failure of prohibitionist policies has never been more obvious here and in the rest of the world.
  • In November 2010, 3.4 million Californians voted to legalise cannabis. They failed by only a narrow margin to achieve the legal regulation, control and taxation of the cannabis market in their State.
  • Our drug laws are supported by a passionate minority while the majority of the public, mostly tolerant towards what adult Kiwis choose to do in private, has become increasingly doubtful about the justice, practicality and effectiveness of the current laws.
  • Young people overwhelmingly favour law reform, and even the older generation has discovered from “celebrity” drug busts that many highly successful Kiwis use illegal drugs.

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