Is Support For Legalisation Waning?

support for legalisation

Cannabis opposition strengthening as referendum date approaches

With New Zealand’s cannabis referendum just weeks away, support for legalisation is waning. A recent survey shows 46 percent of respondents oppose cannabis legalisation, while only 39 percent support it. Compare that to March when a Research New Zealand poll indicated that 43 percent support legalisation while only 33 percent were against it.

Although other polls show different percentages and smaller margins, the trend seems to be the same - support for cannabis legalisation started high but has since dropped significantly. Meanwhile, the opposition has increased.

It’s difficult to gauge exactly how the NZ public will vote in the cannabis referendum. But what seems clear is that it will be a tight vote. With many still undecided on the issue, anything is possible.

About the upcoming cannabis referendum

Less than six weeks away, on 17 October, New Zealand will become the first country to place the question of cannabis legalisation in the hands of her citizens. The cannabis referendum will ask whether Kiwis support the Cannabis Legislation and Control Bill. A majority vote of at least 51 percent is needed to push the bill forward in parliament. 

If the majority vote No, the bill will die, and current laws prohibiting cannabis will remain the status quo. 

So what’s in the bill? It allows those aged 20 and older to legally:

  • Purchase 14 grams or less of cannabis per day from authorised dealers.
  • Grow up to 4 plants per household.
  • Consume cannabis in private residences or licensed areas.
  • Share up to 14 grams of cannabis with others aged 20 years or older.

While the opposition sees this bill as a ticket to get high and abuse drugs, that’s not what it aims to accomplish. The bill takes a balanced approach, focusing on health and education. Rather than lock up the public (of whom the majority between 15 and 45 years of age have tried cannabis at least once), it would be wise to educate them on responsible cannabis use, treat them when they have a drug dependence problem, and allow them to purchase cannabis legally rather than from the black market. 

The bill has several restrictions that show it isn’t just a ploy to turn the government into a major drug dealer. It takes steps to ensure quality control and prevent businesses from exploiting the legal status of the crop - if it becomes legal. 

  • Only flowers, plants, and seeds will be legally sold
  • Concentrates and edibles might be sold later, with additional requirements
  • No cannabis beverages for now
  • Cannabis products can’t exceed 15% of THC
  • The higher the THC levels, the higher the tax
  • Advertising cannabis products is prohibited
  • Companies must choose between selling or growing cannabis - not both
  • Companies will be limited on how much cannabis they can get from the national stock
  • Imports and exports of cannabis will be prohibited. 

Other polls also show support for cannabis waning

The Research New Zealand poll isn’t alone in its suggestions that support for cannabis legalisation is waning. While support for legalisation was strong throughout 2018, peaking at around 67 percent, it began to decline in 2019.

For instance, a 1 NEWS Colmar Brunton poll in August of last year indicated that support had declined to 39 percent, while the opposition was then the majority at 52 percent. Those numbers remained around the same into this year.

However, recent surveys show a tighter race. Prohibition Partners recently reported that New Zealanders in support of cannabis legalisation had now slightly surpassed those against it. The latest Horizon Research survey on the topic also showed a tight race, with both supporters and the opposition deadlocked at 49.5 percent.

Horizon Research polls indicated the majority of respondents will vote Yes during the referendum

While previous Horizon Research polls indicated the majority of respondents will vote Yes during the referendum, both sides are now tied at 49.5 percent. src

Final words

With polls indicating either a tight race to legalisation or an outright lead for the opposition, it’s more important than ever that you go out there and vote. Cannabis legalisation has been a long time coming, and this is as close as we’ve ever been. A majority No vote will likely shut down all cannabis legalisation discussions for good - or at least for a very long time.