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Majority of New Zealanders in Support of Cannabis Law Changes

Two new polls show that the people of New Zealand strongly support both recreational and medical cannabis law changes.

A majority of New Zealanders supports cannabis law changes, according to a pair of new polls. One poll, commissioned by the New Zealand Drug Foundation, found that 65 percent of New Zealanders are in favor of legalizing or decriminalizing recreational cannabis.

“This is the first time we’ve seen such a strong majority in favour of reforming New Zealand’s drug law. This tells us voters are ready for change even if law makers aren’t,” said Ross Bell, NZ Drug Foundation Executive Director.

Thirty-three percent of respondents said they think possession of a small amount of cannabis should be legal, while 31 percent favored decriminalization. Thirty-four percent responded that they’d prefer marijuana remain prohibited.

Marijuana is scheduled under Class C of New Zealand’s Misuse of Drugs Act 1975, and it is therefore illegal to import, grow, sell, distribute, possess, and use. Possession is susceptible to a maximum of three months jail time and a $500 fine.

“The results confirm our sense of a shift in public mood. Voters are more aware that our 40-year-old Misuse of Drugs Act is no longer fit for purpose. I mean, when you have 62 percent of New Zealand First voters supporting sensible drug law change you know you’re on safe political ground!”

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, while acknowledging the country’s cannabis laws weren’t perfect, said that loosening the laws weren’t in the plans.

“It’s been my longstanding view really that one of the things that Parliament does is send a message to people about activity we want to see or not want to see,” he said. “In the case of drugs I think if we as a Parliament were to decriminalise then one of the messages we’d be sending is that increased drug use is okay.”

The survey also found 79 percent of New Zealanders supported cannabis for pain relief and 82 percent were in favor of allowing cannabis to help manage terminal pain relief.

“This poll shows that it doesn’t matter what party people back, there is consistent support to move away from the criminal justice approach to drugs,” said Ross. “It was an old political truth that any changes to drug law was a poisoned chalice, but this poll well and truly busts that myth. There’s a message here for politicians: they no longer need to fear talking about drug law reform.”

The poll involved 1,029 randomly selected New Zealand voters who were contacted over the phone.

CBD hemp oil medical marijuana

A second poll, conducted by UMR, found that 75 percent of New Zealanders believe that patients should have legal access to medical cannabis when a doctor recommends it. The poll, commissioned by medicinal cannabis lobby group Start the Conversation, surveyed 1,000 New Zealanders online from July 29 to August 17.

The participants were asked,” “Should Parliament change the laws of New Zealand so that patients have safe legal access to affordable medicinal cannabis and cannabis products when prescribed by a licensed doctor?” Twelve percent of responders opposed medical cannabis and 12 percent were undecided.

Medical use of marijuana is also currently illegal in New Zealand. However, the Minister or Ministry of Health can authorize the medicinal use of cannabis products following an application by a medical specialist. The Ministry of Health has approved only a few applications.

“Politicians now have the choice. Force those who are mainly unwell to collect signatures simply so the public will be believed or act quickly and with mercy and fix this mess up so people like me and many others have safe and legal guaranteed access.” said Helen Kelly, who has been diagnosed with terminal cancer and an active campaigner for medicinal cannabis.

A similar UMR poll conducted in January found that 72 percent were in support of medical marijuana law reform. Learn more about New Zealand’s cannabis laws on our education page.