Polls Tighten Ahead of New Zealand's Cannabis Referendum

New Zealand will be holding its highly anticipated cannabis referendum on the 17th of October, and it looks like public opinion is split.

Next month, New Zealand could make Oceania history with its upcoming cannabis referendum falling on October 17th.

The ballot gives voters the option to choose either "yes" or "no" as to whether adults aged 20 and older would be allowed to purchase and possess cannabis, cultivate two plants for personal use and visit marijuana "coffee shops" similar to those found in Amsterdam, in which people can consume cannabis publicly.

In the months leading up to the referendum, polls have oscillated between a majority favouring the legalization of cannabis, to the majority wishing to keep cannabis illegal.

Now, a recent survey by Horizon Research found that New Zealand is split at 49.5 per cent on both sides, with 1% of those surveyed saying they are uncertain of where their vote will fall.

As such, the potential legalization of cannabis in New Zealand looks like it rests with the currently undecided.

When looking at the split between those who support cannabis legalization and those who don't, some trends emerge in terms of age. For example, 72% of 25-34-year-olds were in favour of legalization, while just 27% of people over the age of 75 supported it. This is likely the result of older citizens being alive amid the War on Drugs, in which the then-U.S. President Richard Nixon described drug use as "public enemy number one."

For adolescents and young adults who haven't witnessed as frequent anti-drug campaigns, they appear to be more open to the possibility of legalization.

On whether she will vote yes or no, the New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern has kept her opinion close to her chest, stating that:

"My vote, I see, is as good as my neighbour's vote and equal to theirs," reasoning that she does not wish to influence the public's decision.

This statement came as a blow to cannabis advocates, who often consider Jacinda to be one of the more progressive politicians of their lifetime. Simply put, it's likely to remain uncertain which side will win until the votes are tallied up on October 17th.

Should the "yes" vote win the majority, New Zealand could become the first Asia-Pacific country to legalize recreational use cannabis.

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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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