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Majority of New Zealanders Support Cannabis Legalization, Poll Finds

By Leo Bear-McGuinness

Published: Jun 29, 2020   
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New Zealand’s referendum on recreational cannabis legalization is now less than three months away, and a new poll indicates it could end with majority approval.

Support grows for the ‘Reefer-endum’

The new poll surveyed 1,593 New Zealanders between June 10 and 14. It found that 56 percent of adults were in favor of “legalizing cannabis for personal use,” while 43 percent were against the proposal.

When broken down by age categories, young Kiwis were the biggest supporters of legal cannabis access; 72 percent of adults aged between 25 and 34 said they were in favor of the legalization bill.

Senior New Zealanders, on the other hand, were the only group that ultimately opposed the measure. But even among this group, support for legal cannabis was still strong; 39 percent of Kiwis aged between 65 and 74 said they were in favor of a legal recreational model.

Conducted by polling company Horizon Research, the poll was the sixth in an ongoing survey of the country’s attitude towards recreational legalization. And it seems the proportion of Kiwis in approval of legal cannabis use has steadily increased in the past year.

Back in August 2019, just 39 percent of poll participants were in favor of legalization, compared to 47 percent who were against the measure. Since then, attitudes have seemingly changed. In November 2019, the same ongoing survey found that 48 percent of respondents were in favor; that proportion went up to 54 percent in February this year.

The new approval figure of 56 percent is the highest the survey has recorded since it first began in November 2018, when 60 percent of participants said they supported legal recreational cannabis consumption.

Crucially, the proportion of respondents who gave “no opinion” has dwindled during the past two polls. Just 2 percent of participants said they had no opinion on the legalization bill in the latest poll, compared with 16 percent of respondents back in November 2018.

The ongoing survey was commissioned by New Zealand’s largest medicinal cannabis company, Helius Therapeutics.

“New Zealanders have less than three months to decide who they want to ultimately control the cannabis market. There are only two choices: gangs or government,” Paul Manning, Helius Therapeutics’ chief executive, said in a statement.

“Today, hundreds of thousands of Kiwis are accessing cannabis illicitly. Wrestling regulatory control away from the black market would bring about product quality, safer communities, job opportunities, and significant tax revenue for healthcare.”

Kiwi cannabis

The question over legal recreational cannabis will be posed to the country’s electorate on September 9, when New Zealand will hold its general election.

If approved, the new recreational model would initially only allow the sale of fresh and dried cannabis. Anyone over the age of 20 would be able to purchase up to 14 grams of such cannabis per day from licensed outlets.

A cap would also be put in place on businesses to limit the amount of cannabis available for sale in a licensed market. Any would-be cannabis retailers would have to apply for a portion of this cap, but no license holder would be able to hold more than 20 percent.

Speaking during the recent Prohibition Partners Live virtual conference, Ross Bell, the executive director of the charity New Zealand Drug Foundation – which is in favor of legal cannabis access – explained the stakes at place ahead of the referendum.

“The whole global movement around legalization is still pretty fragile,” he said. “A loss in New Zealand would send a really clear message to New Zealand politicians: ‘don’t touch cannabis.’ A no vote means ‘keep away from cannabis for a long time to come’.”

“And that’s why we’re saying this is a once-in-a-generation opportunity.”


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