Nearly two-thirds of New Zealanders support marijuana decriminalization or legalization, according to a new poll.
Sixty-five percent of New Zealand voters support the legalization or decriminalization of recreational marijuana, suggest the findings of a new poll. Support was found to be roughly the same proportion as when the poll was conducted last year.
The poll, conducted by Curia Market Research, was commissioned by the Drug Foundation in an effort to understand voters’ attitudes on drug reform prior to New Zealand’s upcoming September 13 election.
A majority of support for marijuana reform was found across all political parties. Among National voters, 60 percent support either legalization or decriminalization, up from 52 percent a year ago. Only 37 percent believe cannabis possession should remain illegal. Support for decriminalization or legalization among New Zealand First voters was found to be 68 percent, up from 62 percent last year. Sixty-eight percent of Labour party voters support reform, while support among Green Party voters was highest among all parties, at 92 percent.
Across all respondents, 57 percent believe growing or using cannabis for medical purposes like pain management should be legalized. When asked if those diagnosed with a terminal illness should be able to legally access and use medical cannabis, support for bumped up to 59 percent. Twenty-one percent believe medical use should be decriminalized and only 17 percent want medical marijuana use to be criminalized.
Drug Foundation executive director Ross Bell said that the poll’s results suggest that political leaders are failing to represent the attitudes of the New Zealand public, which strongly supports a change to cannabis law.
“The current system is broken. Getting a criminal conviction or possessing cannabis ruins people’s lives and creates huge downstream costs for society,” said Bell. “A regulated approach will usher in controls on quality, price and availability of cannabis, along with more education, prevention and treatment. The public gets this. Why don’t our political leaders?”
An overall shift in attitude toward marijuana law in New Zealand started to become apparent last year, when a pair of polls found a strong majority of support for reform for the first time. Recreational marijuana is currently illegal in New Zealand, punishable by up to three months in jail and a $500 fine. The country does permit the medicinal use of cannabis for patients with serious, debilitating diseases, although high prices inhibit many patients from accessing the substance.
Parliament will likely vote next year on legislation introduced by Green MP Julie Anne Genter that would significantly expand the country’s medical marijuana policy. There are no plans among Parliament to decriminalize or legalize adult use marijuana at this time. Prime Minister Bill English has said cannabis should remain illegal.
At a Drug Foundation-organized symposium held at Parliament last month, some political parties laid out their positions on drug reform. The Green Party called for full cannabis legalization, while the Labour party voiced support for medical cannabis legalization.
The Curia Market Research poll surveyed 938 people from July 3-18.