21 Feb 2020

Cannabis legislation: More education leads to more support

6:25 pm on 21 February 2020

Support for cannabis legalisation grows when people know more about the proposed legislation, new survey results suggest.

cannabis in hand

Photo: Unsplash / Sharon McCutcheon

The survey, commissioned by the Helen Clark Foundation, asked 1000 adults how they'd vote in September's referendum based on what they already knew.

The result was neck and neck - 46 percent for the legalisation, 44 percent against, and 10 percent undecided.

When told more about the proposed rules around things like sale and age restrictions, support grew to 50 percent, opposition decreased to 42 percent, and fewer people 8 percent were undecided.

The foundation's Holly Walker says the results demonstrate the need for accurate information.

"When people learn about these proposed restrictions, they are more likely to support a law change,"

New Zealand Drug Foundation saw similar results in research commissioned in November last year.

"When initially asked how they would vote, participants were evenly split, with around 14 percent undecided. Once the participants were given more information on the legislation, we saw stronger support for a yes vote," the Drug Foundation's chief executive, Ross Bell, said.

Over the past two months, the proportion of undecided voters has dropped, following the release of the draft Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill in December.

In both recent Newshub Reid Research and 1 News Colmar Brunton polls, 39 per cent of respondents supported legalisation.

Forty-eight percent of people in the Reid Research poll wanted it to remain illegal, with just under 12 percent undecided.

The "no" vote was stronger in the Colmar Brunton poll, with 51 percent saying it should remain illegal. Nine percent were undecided and 1 percent said they wouldn't vote.

This was up from a November/December Colmar Brunton poll which saw 49 percent against legalisation and 43 per cent for it.

The draft legislation includes an age limit of 20, redistribution of tax into harm reduction, health and education programmes, a ban on all marketing and advertising of cannabis products, strict controls on the potency of cannabis, and other restrictions.

"Over the last three months we have been approached by many New Zealanders saying this issue is worthy of their attention and they want more information," Ross Bell said.

"There is evidence from other jurisdictions that if we are going to have this conversation, then people need good, accurate information," he said.

Results from a New Zealand Medical Journal study out today, found that fewer Year 10 students are trying cannabis.

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