NZ Split on the Legalisation of Cannabis

legalisation of cannabis

New Zealand’s cannabis referendum is less than six weeks away

Less than six weeks away from the cannabis referendum, New Zealanders are equally split in their support for the Yes and No campaigns. A Horizon Research poll indicates that support for both sides is tied at 49.5 percent. 

But while Kiwis are tied on both sides of the issue, a slight majority of the registered voters surveyed said they will vote against cannabis legalisation. 

While different polls might have different results, they all indicate a tight vote in the upcoming referendum. In this post, we’ll break down the pendulum swings in the polls, and explain what the cannabis bill being voted on actually contains.

The latest Horizon Research cannabis referendum poll shows a very tight vote

By all indications so far, votes in the 17 October cannabis referendum will come down to the wire. The latest Horizon Research poll confirms this with respondents deadlocked on both Yes and No votes.

research poll

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 

The poll surveyed 1,300 New Zealanders between 20 and 25 August. Of the six prior surveys conducted by Horizon Research on the topic, five of them showed the majority of respondents supported cannabis legalisation. This latest poll tightens the race significantly.  

More troubling is that, amongst registered voters who are completely certain they will vote, the No campaign has more support (50.8 percent) than the Yes campaign (48.8 percent). This is significant because you can’t vote in New Zealand unless you’re registered on the electoral roll.

Other cannabis referendum polls

The long-awaited cannabis referendum will hold on 17 October. But so far, checking the pulse of the nation on how they will vote has proved difficult. 

Earlier polls showed support for legalising recreational cannabis as high as 67 percent. But the tide began turning early last year, when that support for the Yes vote had declined to just 52 percent in April. 

Later, the No vote supporters took the lead. An August 2019 1 News Colmar Brunton poll indicated that 52 percent of New Zealanders would vote No during the upcoming cannabis referendum, while 39 percent would vote Yes. The major shift held steady, with the majority opposing legal cannabis in polls taken this year as well. 

But yet again, a recent poll showed support for the Yes campaign had slightly surpassed No votes.

support for legal cannabis

Recent poll showed support for legal cannabis slightly higher than the opposition. src

What is in the cannabis bill being voted on?

The upcoming referendum will ask you to vote Yes or No regarding whether the Cannabis Legislation and Control Bill should move forward in parliament. The majority of voters - 51 percent or above - would have to vote Yes for the bill to move ahead. A majority No vote will keep cannabis laws as they currently are. 

Because the referendum is non-binding, even a majority Yes vote doesn’t guarantee it’ll become law. The bill will have to go through readings and votes in parliament, just like all other bills. However, the Labour, NZ First, and the Green Party have all indicated their support for the bill if the majority of New Zealanders vote Yes on 17 October. But the National party is likely to oppose the bill. 

The Cannabis Legislation and Control Bill, if passed into law, will make it legal for those 20 years of age and over to:

  • Purchase 14 grams or less of cannabis per day from licensed establishments
  • Grow up to 4 cannabis plants per household
  • Use cannabis on private property or autorised/licensed areas
  • Share up to 14 grams of cannabis with others who are 20 years or over

The bill outlines a number of restrictions on businesses to ensure product quality and prevent over-marketing:

  • 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.

In Sum

There is a massive Say No to Dope campaign pushing against cannabis legalisation. The campaign is backed by several lobbyists, heavily funded and confident that the Cannabis Legislation and Control Bill will be defeated during the referendum this October. 

The opposition will certainly show up to vote, and the latest Horizon Research survey confirms that. There, the majority of registered voters who are 100 percent certain they will vote on 17 October, said they would vote No. This indicates that, although Yes and No votes are tied in general, those who are sure to vote are mostly against legal cannabis. 

If you support cannabis legalisation, the only way to see it become a reality is by registering in the electoral roll and going out to vote.