The New Zealand Drug Foundation’s 2017 poll confirms the trend for increasing support for cannabis law reform.
The poll was conducted by National Party pollsters Curia and shows even 60 per cent of that party’s voters want to see cannabis decriminalised or made legal.
Overall, 65 per cent want cannabis legal or decriminalised, and 81 per cent support allowing medical cannabis for patients with terminal illnesses.
With an election within a few weeks, Parliament is likely to vote next year on a member’s bill from Green Party MP Julie Anne Genter that would legalise medical cannabis.
Labour leader Jacinda Ardern said “young people in particular” shouldn’t be doing time for possession.
Even Peter Dunne now wants to legalise and regulate low-risk Class C drugs like cannabis – pointing to a recent spate of deaths linked to synthetic drugs sold as cannabis alternatives.
However National Party leader Bill English says cannabis should remain illegal.
Media coverage of the 2017 NZ Drug Foundation/Curia cannabis opinion poll:
Sixty per cent of National voters want personal possession of cannabis decriminalised or made legal, a new poll released just weeks before the election reveals.
Support is even higher amongst 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 September’s election.
Across all respondents, 65 per cent 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 per cent of New Zealanders want that to be criminal.
When broken down by party, there was growing support amongst National and New Zealand First voters to not criminalise people for possessing a small amount of cannabis for personal use.
Sixty per cent of National voters supported either legalisation (22 per cent) or decriminalisation (38 per cent) – up from 52 per cent a year ago. Thirty-seven per cent wanted cannabis possession to remain illegal.
Support for decriminalisation or legalisation amongst New Zealand First voters was at 68 per cent, compared to 62 per cent a year ago.
Labour also sits at 68 per cent (no change from last year), while Green Party voters are most in favour of reform at 92 per cent (up from 83 per cent last year).
Drug Foundation executive director Ross Bell said the polling showed Kiwis 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?”
Debate about cannabis reform has been stirred by former union leader Helen Kelly and Martin Crowe using the drug for medicinal pain relief during their terminal illnesses, and new approaches taken overseas including in Australia, where some states issue civil fines instead of criminal penalties.
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 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 think 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.
The results were:
• 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
The poll was conducted from July 3-18, with 938 people participating. The margin of error is +/-3.1 per cent.
Support for cannabis law reform is as strong as everBy Dean Nathan
The NZ Drug Foundation is urging political parties to make firm commitments to health-focused drug law during this Election campaign.
Chief Executive Ross Bell says their new poll shows public support for cannabis law reform is as strong as ever, “This is the thing, I think the public is frustrated with and if you look at our poll, 80% of the NZ public support reform to medical cannabis so that we make medical cannabis more available to people who are sick and who are dying. And the politicians my goodness, why have they not caught up with that yet?”
The second poll in two years by the foundation shows New Zealanders are fed up with the long wait for cannabis law reform, with calls by thousands of sufferers for a law with compassion.
Terry Mason says, “I’ve got rheumatoid arthritis so I’ve battled seven years against high dose morphine, so unless you’re making excessive amounts of money to be able to afford the governments’ “accessible stuff”, you can’t.”
After years of being in and out of hospital due to the side effects of opiate medication to treat his spinal injuries, Patrick Tahitahi says his life has changed for the good since he went “green”. But the high cost of medicinal marijuana means it’s now out of his reach.
“That’s the big factor is the cost. It doesn’t cost much to grow a plant in the back yard, one or two per patient per person just for that medicinal benefit.”
The NZ Drug Foundation is challenging both the National and Labour parties to support the call by 65% of the public to either legalise or decriminalise cannabis.
To date, only the minor parties have indicated their support for reform.
Ross Bell says, “We should expect political parties to be talking about prevention and health and treatment, not about law and order and getting tough. So I think voters should demand that because certainly, that’s what voters want to see.”
Support for cannabis reform getting higher
Public support for cannabis law reform in New Zealand is as strong as ever, the NZ Drug Foundation says, citing poll results.
Of those questioned, 65 percent believed possessing cannabis for personal use should be legalised (28 percent) or decriminalised (37 percent).
- Marijuana laws changing around the world
- Medicinal marijuana Bill in the ballot
- Labour wants medicinal cannabis grown in NZ
Foundation executive director Ross Bell says the split matches a survey a year ago when 64 percent were in favour of change.
“The current system is broken,” he said. “Getting a criminal conviction for possessing cannabis ruins peoples’ lives and creates huge downstream costs for society.”
The foundation wants political parties to make commitments to health-focused drug law during the election campaign.
The poll of 938 people, commissioned by the foundation, was conducted in July.
Mr Bell said it showed cross-party support for change relating to personal use, led by voters for the Green Party (92 percent in favour) and NZ First (68 percent).
Total supporting legalising or decriminalising cannabis:
- For personnel possession – 65 percent
- Personal growing – 55 percent
- Growing for friends – 26 percent
- Pain relief – 78 percent
- Terminal pain relief – 81 percent
- Selling from a store – 34 percent.
At a NORML rally two weeks ago, spokesman Chris Fowlie urged cannabis users to vote “Jacinda over Bill” at the election.
“The Government’s piecemeal changes do not change much for patients, who are still needlessly suffering. We are calling for patients and their caregivers to be allowed to grow and use cannabis for health purposes.”
On Thursday during a Facebook Live event, Labour leader Jacinda Ardern said “young people in particular” shouldn’t be doing time for possession.
“I don’t think anyone should be serving a sentence in prison for smoking cannabis. I don’t think that’s a good response.”
While a few thousand people under 25 get drug convictions every year, very few go to jail.