Survey results released today by the Helen Clark Foundation and the NZ Drug Foundation show that support for cannabis legalisation grows when people know more about the proposed legislation.
When respondents were asked how they would vote in September's referendum based on what they already know, the result was neck and neck – 46 percent said they would vote for the legalisation of cannabis, 44 percent said they would vote against it, and 10 percent were undecided.
When people were then told more about the limits and restrictions on cannabis use and sale in the proposed legislation, support for legalisation increased to 50 percent, opposition decreased to 42 percent, and 8 percent were undecided.
“These results suggest New Zealanders are likely to support a sensible approach to cannabis harm reduction when they have accurate information about what is being proposed,” said Holly Walker, Deputy Director of the Helen Clark Foundation.
“The details matter. Armed with the facts, voters see that putting in place rules and enforcing these is better than the status quo.”
New Zealand Drug Foundation saw similar results in research commissioned in November last year. “When initially asked how they would vote, participants were evenly split, with around 14 percent undecided. Once the participants were given more information on the legislation, we saw stronger support for a yes vote,” said Ross Bell, Executive Director, NZ Drug Foundation.
Over the last two months the proportion of undecided voters has dropped, following the release of the draft Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill in December.
The draft legislation includes an age limit of 20, redistribution of tax into harm reduction, health and education programmes, a ban on all marketing and advertising of cannabis products, strict controls on the potency of cannabis, and other restrictions.
“When people learn about these proposed restrictions, they are more likely to support a law change,” said Ms Walker.
“Legalising, regulating, and taxing cannabis use makes sense to a lot of people. They know that the status quo isn't working. People can see that New Zealand would not be going out on a limb as more countries have already moved or are moving in this direction.”
“Over the last three months we have been approached by many New Zealanders saying this issue is worthy of their attention and they want more information,” said Ross Bell.
“Not everyone knows the basics. We have had people ask us if they have to be enrolled to participate in the referendum. This issue is relevant to every New Zealander and they want to talk and have their say on this. I would say that it's not enough to rely on poll after poll to have this discussion,” said Bell.
“There is evidence from other jurisdictions that if we are going to have this conversation people need good, accurate information. We have an opportunity to vote on a solution that is focused on positive public health outcomes and harm minimisation, so let's do it right,” said Bell.
The survey questions were commissioned by the Helen Clark Foundation and included in UMR’s most recent nation-wide omnibus survey, an online survey of a nationally representative sample of 1000 New Zealanders 18 years of age and over.
Fieldwork for the survey was conducted between 22 January and 3 February 2020. The maximum sampling error for a sample size of 1000 at the 95% confidence level is ± 3.1%.
Respondents were first asked “As you may be aware, later this year there will be a referendum alongside the general election to see if New Zealanders want to legalise cannabis. Based on what you already know, will you ... Vote for legalisation of cannabis/ Vote against legalisation of cannabis/ Unsure”
Following this, respondents were given the following additional information about the referendum:
The Government has recently released the draft Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill.
The draft includes:
They were then asked how they would vote in the referendum again.
Survey participants also reported that barriers to accessing services, resources and information were high.
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95% of respondents reported positive effects, in a study that looked at both prescription and black market cannabis use.