Marijuana Legalization Now Favoured By Majority of New Zealanders

A new poll reveals that a majority of New Zealanders now support marijuana legalization in the lead up to the cannabis referendum on September 19th.

The latest survey by Horizon has found that a majority of Kiwi's now support legalising cannabis for recreational purposes. The poll surveyed 2,000 people and showed that 54% of respondents will vote yes to legalising cannabis use in New Zealand's upcoming referendum. Additionally, the survey revealed that 45% of respondents would vote against the legalisation of recreational cannabis.

The new data flew in the face of previous polls which found that the number of New Zealanders in favor of cannabis legalization was actually shrinking, and had become a minority by June 2019.

Though there is one interesting difference between Horizon's latest poll and those carried out prior to it; there is no option to sit on the fence with this latest poll; you must either be in favour of, or against the legalisation of recreational cannabis.

This is especially prudent given that polls from as recently as February showed that 39% of respondents supported the legalization of recreational cannabis use and 48% opposed legalization – with 10% undecided.

With the option to have "no opinion" removed, and respondents forced to pick a side (as they will have to in the September referendum) it seems that legalization wins the debate. Though of course, those with no opinion on the matter may end up simply not voting at all – again, suggesting the polling results may not be definitive.

The poll was funded by New Zealand's primary medicinal cannabis company, Helius Therapeutics, the CEO of which stated that "polls on this issue will continue to move around, but this was the first time since November 2018, in this series of tracking polls, a majority of all age groups between 18 and 64 years said they would vote for legalization and control."

Helius's CEO, Paul Manning, went on to say that the status quo, as it pertains to cannabis laws in New Zealand, was largely seen as a failure by most Kiwis.

"83% of people polled didn't believe the prohibition of personal cannabis use was working, and 72% said having controls for growing and selling cannabis for personal use would be better for society."

"Kiwis have clearly spoken. They are unified in their belief that prohibition is failing, and controls would be preferable," Manning said.

Helius's CEO continued to say that "this survey also highlights a real paradox. Older and conservative Kiwis, in particular, openly accept cannabis is widely available and controls would be better, but they don't want a bar of the referendum which would trigger the Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill. It begs the question, what do they want?"

Though it remains uncertain as to whether the referendum will go on as scheduled given the ongoing coronavirus crisis. Moreover, even if the referendum does go on as planned, and it gains the support of a majority of New Zealanders, the results of the referendum are non-binding, meaning that the New Zealand Government isn't obligated to the results.

Regardless of whether the government follows through, the results of the cannabis referendum will edify New Zealand leaders, as well as the global public, about New Zealander's stance on the plant.

Though given the current coronavirus crisis, Manning stated that the government could benefit from the potential tax revenues that a recreational cannabis industry could bring New Zealand.

"Our Parliament has just approved a $52 billion funding envelope for the current crisis. However, with the tax take falling, accessing new revenue sources will be more important than ever," he said.

"The prospect of our Government taking control of the black market and redirecting revenue back into the health sector looks increasingly attractive."

Of course, the entire world has been put on hold due to the rapid spread of COVID-19, and it remains uncertain as to whether the September referendum will go ahead.


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Louis O'Neill
Louis O'Neill

Louis is a writer based in Sydney with a focus on social and political issues. Having interviewed local politicians and entrepreneurs, Louis now focuses on cannabis culture, legislation & reform.

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