New Zealand's Cannabis Referendum May be About to Collapse

A poll conducted by One News Colmar Brunton has found that public support for the upcoming referendum on cannabis legalization is significantly weaker than it was in 2019.

There was bad news for the cannabis legalization movement in New Zealand this week, as a new One News Colmar Brunton poll revealed that support for the issue is significantly lower than originally thought.

The survey found that just 39% of New Zealand citizens plan on voting in favour of cannabis legalization during the upcoming referendum, representing a substantial decline compared to the 43% who supported the move in December 2019.

The poll also found that those most likely to vote against legalizing cannabis were Asian citizens, National Party supporters and people aged 55 and over.

Make no mistake, the business case for medicinal cannabis remains strong. Nevertheless, the release of the One News Colmar Brunton poll last week has provided a wakeup call for many in the industry. Assuming the trend continues through to the referendum, it will be bad news for those in the industry looking to use a recreational cannabis product line to subsidise a medicinal cannabis development programme.

Former NZ Associate Health Minister and Chairman of Setek, Peter Dunne

Meanwhile, the New Zealanders most likely to be in favour of legalization were Labour and Green Party supporters, Māori's, people with annual household incomes between $30,001 to $70,000 and women aged 18 to 34.

The results of the poll prompted Green Party member Chlöe Swarbrick to state that the issue may not be as clear cut as originally thought.

 "We really have a job to do in getting out there and talking to people."

"This substance is underground, we have no idea who's using it… We have essentially chaos," Swarbrick said.

The timing of the poll could also spell disaster for New Zealand's fledgling legal marijuana industry, as many companies are counting on the introduction of legalization to loosen the regulatory framework that is currently holding back a number of cannabis companies.

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New Zealanders will vote on the issue in September 2020 as part of the country's general election and if passed the legislation will allow people over the age of 20 to legally purchase recreational cannabis.

The new bill would also allow citizens to grow small amount of cannabis for personal use, with a limit of two plants per individual and four plants for each household. Properly licensed business will also be allowed to sell cannabis, however it will have to be consumed on the retailer's premises or at a private residence.

The legislation would also introduce a ban on advertising cannabis products—along with the prohibition of online and remote sales—although some limited marketing will still be allowed.

According to the former Associate Health Minister and chairman of medicinal cannabis company Setek, Peter Dunne, the introduction of recreational cannabis will be crucial to ensuring that New Zealand patients have continued access to the pharmaceutical drugs needed to treat their conditions.   

The reason for this is that the small size of New Zealand's population means that it will most likely be unable to produce enough revenue to cover the long-term commercialisation costs involved with bringing medicinal cannabis products to market.

"For many that is where recreational cannabis was meant to come to the rescue. As Patrick Gower's documentary on Newshub last year so amply demonstrated, the legalisation of recreational cannabis opens an almost limitless number of business opportunities and revenue sources," Dunne said.

"One need look no further than the investment in, and the revenue generated by, the domestic alcohol industry to get a sense for the possibilities of the recreational cannabis market."

"If the polls are right, that door is closing rapidly and success in the cannabis industry now looks like it will belong to those who spend time in the laboratory rather than the marketing department," he said.


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Hugo Gray
Hugo Gray

Hugo Gray is a Melbourne-based journalist with a body of work that covers a diverse range of topics, including immigration law, sex technology, and now the rapidly expanding cannabis industry.

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