Cannabis legalisation polls and trends

Two recent polls suggested majorities opposing cannabis legislation, but one poll has a more supporting change, especially “When New Zealanders Have More Information”.

And data from Canada where cannabis is already legal suggests fewer young people are now using cannabis.

1 News (14 February): New Zealanders likely to vote against cannabis legalisation – 1 NEWS Colmar Brunton Poll

Those polled were asked, ‘At this stage, do you think you will vote for cannabis to be legalised, or for cannabis to remain illegal?’

Remain illegal – 51%
Legalise cannabis – 39%
Will not vote – 1%
Don’t know / refused – 9%

The groups of people who were more likely than average to intend to vote against legalising cannabis were Asian New Zealanders, National Party supports and people aged 55 and over.

Those who were more likely to intend to vote for legalisation were Green Party supporters, women aged 18 to 34, Māori, people with annual household incomes between $30,001 to $70,000 and Labour Party supporters.

Between February 8 to 12, 1004 eligible voters were polled by landline (402) and mobile phone (602). The maximum sampling error is approximately ±3.1%-points at the 95% confidence level.

November/December 1 NEWS Colmar Brunton poll saw 49 per cent against legalisation and 43 per cent for, with the June 2019 poll seeing 52 per cent of people against and 39 per cent for legalisation.

In the October 2018 1 NEWS Colmar Brunton Poll, the results were slightly more in favour of legalisation than against, with nearly half wanting the drug to be legal. Forty-six per cent of Kiwis were in favour of legalisation and 41 per cent were against.

In the July 2017 1 NEWS Colmar Brunton poll, 47 per cent were in favour of cannabis legalisation and 41 per cent were opposed.

Newshub (18 February): New poll shows support for both recreational cannabis and euthanasia dropping

The latest Newshub Reid-Research poll asked the referendum question the public will be asked in the referendum this election: do you support the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill?

  • 39.4 percent said ‘yes’
  • 47.7 percent said ‘no ‘
  • 11.6 percent said ‘don’t know’

The Bill would make recreational cannabis legal for over 20s, with restrictions.

Since the last time Newshub polled on this in June, despite additional details released in December, more people have moved from the ‘yes’ camp to the ‘don’t knows’.

Very few voters will know what Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill actually proposes.

(Note that the euthanasia part of the headline is a bit misleading, the result was 61.9% in favour, 23.7% against).

NZ Drug Foundation (21 February): Poll Shows Support For Cannabis Legalisation When New Zealanders Have More Information

Survey results released today by the Helen Clark Foundation and the New Zealand Drug Foundation show that support for cannabis legalisation grows when people know more about the proposed legislation.

When respondents were asked how they would vote in September’s referendum based on what they already know:

  • 46% said they would vote for the legalisation of cannabis
  • 44% said they would vote against it
  • 10% undecided

When people were then told more about the limits and restrictions on cannabis use and sale in the proposed legislation:

  • support for legalisation increased to 50%
  • opposition decreased to 42%
  • 8% undecided

Fieldwork for the survey was conducted between 22 January and 3 February 2020. The maximum sampling error for a sample size of 1000 at the 95% confidence level is ± 3.1%.

That looks promising for those wanting change, but there is likely to be a battle of information and misinformation.

“These results suggest New Zealanders are likely to support a sensible approach to cannabis harm reduction when they have accurate information about what is being proposed,” said Holly Walker, Deputy Director of the Helen Clark Foundation.

“The details matter. Armed with the facts, voters see that putting in place rules and enforcing these is better than the status quo.”

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,” said Ross Bell, Executive Director, NZ Drug Foundation.

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

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.

“When people learn about these proposed restrictions, they are more likely to support a law change,” said Ms Walker.

NZ Herald: Legalising cannabis: Supporters, opponents take swipes at each other as polls show knife-edge decision

The foundation said it showed more support for legalisation when voters were more informed, but Family First national director Bob McCoskrie said it was loaded to ask the same question either side of highlighting the proposed legal framework.

McCoskrie attributed the decline of the ‘yes’ vote to the strength of the ‘no’ campaign so far, including a 24-page pamphlet that had been delivered nationwide.

But Drug Foundation executive director Ross Bell said the downward trend in ‘yes’ support was because of “well-funded and relentless opposition scaremongering”.

He has asked supporters to donate funds to the ‘yes’ campaign, which was putting together a strategy that included billboards, TV advertising and social media.

McCoskrie responded by saying he was giving the public the “facts”, adding that he had little faith in the Prime Minister’s expert advisory panel, headed by her Chief Science Advisor Professor Juliet Gerrard.

The panel is putting together publicly-available information about the impacts of cannabis use, what changes have occurred overseas, and how applicable that might be in New Zealand.

So McCoskrie doesn’t like people being informed when being polled, but is keen to ‘inform’ people against the legislation.

Meanwhile (NZH):

New data from the Youth Insights Survey, published yesterday in the New Zealand Medical Journal, found that between 2012 and 2018, the proportion of Year 10 students who had tried the drug fell by more than a quarter.

“This was predicted, since cannabis trends in this age group are strongly associated with tobacco trends, and it was already known that smoking in Year 10 students had continued to decline since 2012,” said the study’s Otago University authors.

However, the authors note that other research shows cannabis use is increasing among New Zealand adults generally.

Past year use increased from 9 per cent in 2012/13 to 15 per cent in 2018/19 overall – and from 19 per cent to 29 per cent among 15 to 24 year olds, the age group with the highest cannabis usage.

The authors said there were likely two key reasons for the conflicting trends.

“Firstly, the average age at which young people are initiating risk behaviours, including cannabis use, has increased in recent years,” they wrote.

“Secondly, normalisation of cannabis use has been counteracted by decreasing prevalence and frequency of smoking and drinking in this age group.

“The evidence suggests that adolescents’ willingness to try cannabis has increased, but their opportunities for doing so have decreased due to less face to face time with friends and fewer drinking and smoking occasions.”

But statistics from Canada shows the opposite has happened there, with youth use of cannabis dropping significantly since legalisation and regulation.



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  1. Duker

     /  22nd February 2020

    Data from Canada ?
    “The National Cannabis Survey (NCS) has been collecting self-reported data about Canadian’s cannabis consumption every three months, since February 2018.Note7Note8 Nevertheless, in order to collect, process, analyze and then disseminate NCS results quarterly, it was required that the questionnaire be concise, with a short collection period (about 31 days) and a modest sample size. As such, sometimes one NCS quarter did not capture enough observations of a particular behaviour.

    Self reported….hmmm
    Modest sample size…..hmmm

    Age 15 or higher”
    This was higher than the 14.9% (4.5 million) reporting use, on average, in 2018 (before legalization).
    Usuage of cannabis is growing ! Im sure this wasnt the purpose of the legalisation!

    “According to the 2019 NCS, an estimated 29.4% of cannabis users reported obtaining all of the cannabis they consumed from a legal source;

    So 3/4 are getting illegally still. So much for that avalanche of taxes because of legalization

    Cherry picking the data for one very small group 15-17 yr olds ( small samples, short time period) , doesnt match the increased usage amoung the next older group
    The margin of error for those 15-17 yr old group
    before 13.4% to 28.3% or 14.9% thats a huge range !
    after 6.9% to 15.3% or 8.4%

    Not really reliable to say 15-17 yr use has dropped , when the population as a whole has risen.
    But the ‘Pro Drug Foundation’ cherry picks the numbers anyway

    • Duker

       /  22nd February 2020

      The NZ Data for the ‘youth ‘ shows cannabis use is falling anyway – which is linked with falling tobacco usage .
      Canadas numbers are probably linked to the same cause and would have been falling before legalisation

      • Noel

         /  22nd February 2020

        Self reported. History has shown us the self reported data in studies is the least reliable of all. I would prefer the word “opinion”over “scientific” with little credibility.

  2. David

     /  22nd February 2020

    The NZ Drug Foundation have an agenda and are being less than honest. Absurd to imagine use would decrease as supply becomes more available and different delivery methods become mainstream such as vape pens and edibles.

    From the CBC: “In the first three months of 2018, about 330,000 Canadians said they’d tried cannabis for the first time. A year later, it was up to 650,000, she said.”

    From Stats Canada: “About 5.3 million or 18% of Canadians aged 15 years and older reported using cannabis in the last three months. This was higher than the 14% who reported using just one year earlier, before legalization.

    The increase in cannabis use between the first quarters of 2018 and 2019 can be partly explained by greater use among males and people aged 45 to 64. For example, rates of cannabis consumption for males increased from 16% to 22% over this period, while rates rose from 9% to 14% for persons aged 45 to 64. Levels of consumption remained stable for females, at 13%, and were unchanged for persons in the other age groups (such as young people under 25 and seniors).”

    • Duker

       /  22nd February 2020

      NZ Data says cannabis use is increasing amoungst the general population ( same as Canada) and the youngest group is declining ( in line with tobacco use, same as Canada)
      We can say that legalisation doesnt seem to change existing trends and only 1/4 buy it legally in Canada

    • In what way do you think the Drug Foundation have been “less than honest”?

      • David

         /  22nd February 2020

        That youth cannabis use in Canada is declining, its not and neither is cannabis use overall according to stats Canada.
        On the face of it it is a ridiculous claim that use would decrease by 50% in a year.

        • Duker

           /  22nd February 2020

          Youth cannabis usage is declining in NZ NOW
          ‘ published yesterday in the New Zealand Medical Journal, found that between 2012 and 2018, the proportion of Year 10 students who had tried the drug fell by more than a quarter.”
          Thats because its strongly correlated to decline in smoking tobacco .
          Note this is a specific year 10 group .

          • David

             /  22nd February 2020

            You could well be right about the decline but the drug foundation had 50% in a year and that was the year it was legalized. Canadian stats prove this is a lie.

      • NOEL

         /  22nd February 2020

        For it seems eons the Drug Foundation and the Greens was pushing the line it wasn’t about choice but a “health issue”. The obvious approach was decriminalisation and improving addiction services.
        Now that decriminalisation has been removed from the options should we be surprised that they are now touting a paper on legalisation?

  3. Zedd

     /  22nd February 2020

    I heard that another poll found that about 80% of adult kiwis (18+) admitted having tried this ‘illegal drug’ at least once. So its interesting that 51% in this poll, reportedly say ‘keep it illegal’ ?

    The other telling stat. 40% of respondents were on landlines. The majority of these were likely of the ‘older generations’.. who according to most info. would likely vote ‘NO’. So the data is ‘suspect’ as being a true picture of all potential voters.

    btw: I was told that ‘Family first’ addressed a forum at Otago Uni. recently & were ridiculed & laughed at, by the majority, for feeding Misinfo. & Fear-mongering. Obviously the audience were not taken in by their B-S that is still being fed to us, as ‘facts’
    BUT in reality is seen as ‘cherry-picked’ to fit their Anti-reform agenda 😦

    • BUT: we (on the reform side) have a lot of work/mahi to do, before 19/9/20, if we are to clearly swing the vote to the ‘YES’ vote 🙂

      The other thing that was clear at Thieves Alley (Otepoti/Dn) market day (info. table); the majority of folks who say “I already know it all’ were pretty ignorant, when engaged, of the actual info. contained in the Draft Govt. bill.. that is the basis of the Ref. Question !

      The question is NOT; ‘Do you support legalising cannabis for YOUTH to smoke it legally’;
      it is clearly R20 & is intended to regulate the drug along similar lines to alcohol, to keep it from youth; who can currently get it from the black-market.
      The main intention of the proposed bill is to shut down the black-market by presently alternatives.. as is happening in many other OECD countries already. These countries ARE seeing the youth use rates dropping, once the ‘forbidden fruit’ mystique is removed

      • Conspiratoor

         /  22nd February 2020

        “The main intention of the proposed bill is to shut down the black-market by presently alternatives.. as is happening in many other OECD countries already”

        I’m curious to know zedd, where are these countries with a black-market no longer? Canada’s black market for cannabis has continued to thrive since legalisation

        • what say you take a deep breath & realise ‘It wont happen over night… BUT it will happen !’

          of course it is unlikely to be totally wiped out.. esp. if they undercut the legal/licensed prices. BUT the idea is to replace it with a legal, regulated option

          >In the 1920s USA they tried prohibition with alcohol.. hey guess what, it was just taken over by the black-market..
          BUT in 1933 the Volstead act was repealed & the black-market, was replaced with a legal, regulated & licensed regime.. sound familiar ?
          They still have ‘bootleg’ booze: moonshine, but it is no longer the ‘preferred option’

          Get a grip on yourself….

          • Conspiratoor

             /  22nd February 2020

            Read my question again …slowly this time. And let’s wait until September to see whose lost their grip. You will find sanity prevails

          • Duker

             /  22nd February 2020

            Canada had prohibition too

            Lets hear about the organised crime in Canada… not much to say and yet they would be more like us.
            some parts of the provinces are still dry . Just as we had dry areas in NZ up till the 90s

            The real reasons for prohibition were the open slather by the bars and alcohol industry at the time and the widespread drunkeness encouraged by bar owners

            But of course we arent going from legalised cannabis to prohibition and back again….. closing the stable door is much harder

    • Corky

       /  22nd February 2020

      ”btw: I was told that ‘Family first’ addressed a forum at Otago Uni
      recently & were ridiculed & laughed at, by the majority.”

      You expected different, Zedd? Conservative values and university campuses are like chalk and cheese. However, thirty years on, many of those students who laughed heartily at the silly oldies and their weird conservative views… won’t be laughing. Life and real world living will have left its mark. By now these ex ‘cool dudes’ will have children. They will have learnt what it is to worry about the safety of their children around booze, dak and hard drugs.

  4. btw: for the folks who prefer the word ‘Decrim.’ as a soft option, rather than legalisation.. they perhaps dont realise that this would still see the cultivation &/or sale to ADULTS as illegal & remain in the hands of the Black-market.
    >This is frankly ridiculous IMHO

    enuf sed 😀

  5. David

     /  22nd February 2020

    I used to be a libertarian on these things but I see no benefit outside of medical use for it. No one is being locked up for smoking it so legalizing it doesnt really do much in the criminal justice area. The current people making money from dope will just escalate to another product which could be more damaging or move to higher strength dope. There will be a move to edibles that are processed by the liver and can have interesting outcomes, trippy ones.
    I worry about young people and mental health issues.

    • “The current people making money from dope will just escalate to another product ”

      That has already happened, in large part because criminals control both markets and push people towards mdma over cannabis.

      If cannabis was easier (and legal) to get then less people are likely to by pushed into hard drugs.

      • Duker

         /  22nd February 2020

        “If cannabis was easier (and legal) to get then less people are likely to by pushed into hard drugs.”
        Thats a bizarre claim, just repeating the old discredited ‘cannabis is a gateway to hard drugs’ claim , but dressed up as a ‘good thing when legalised’ . You do know the majority of cannabis will continue to be sold illegally , Canada its 3/4. Im thinking NZ with existing distribution via gangs ‘more developed than Canada’ it will be even higher and our openly selling will become more brazen as even less attention from the Cops
        All so a few middle class smokers can ‘partake with easier consciences’

        • Griff.

           /  23rd February 2020

          I found your issue .
          You claim you are thinking.
          No you are not you can not even get simple facts right .
          Canada has issues with supply and the number of outlets available.
          For instance Ontario has 24 shops for a population of over 14 million spread over an area of a million square km’s. If you have to drive for hundreds of kilometers to buy more expensive pot from a legal shop many simply keep using their dealers .
          Even then after only a year the black market has been reduced by 30% and will continue to decline over time.
          We can learn from the Canadian experience and do legalization better.

          “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.”
          The war on drugs has failed it causes far more harms than it prevents .
          If the reeferendum does not pass this time it is still only when it becomes legal not if.

    • Pink David

       /  22nd February 2020

      “The current people making money from dope will just escalate to another product ”

      They have moved to tobacco.

    • Corky

       /  22nd February 2020

      ”I used to be a Libertarian on these things .”

      I think the word ”liberal” may be a better fit, Dave? True Libertarians will always vote in favour of legislation like this because their philosophical stance must be consistent with freedom of the individual to choose.

  6. Noel

     /  22nd February 2020

    It’s unfortunate the decriminalisation option was removed from the table.
    Could have changed the lives of those with an addiction preventing their employment etc.

    Choice option with a state regulated supply. Geez shouldn’t alcohol send some warning of the dangers.

    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  22nd February 2020

      Giving people freedom is always dangerous and so is taking it away.

    • Conspiratoor

       /  22nd February 2020

      I’m not sure you’re correct there Noel. Under NZ law employers have a duty of care to ensure the workplace is safe and as free as reasonably possible from risks such as those resulting from drug or alcohol impairment. So whether a drug or alcohol is decriminalised it matters not to one’s employment prospects. What matters is they don’t front up with a belly full of last night’s booze or stoned

      This is a real problem here in the north where almost an entire demographic is willing but unable to work because they can’t pass a drug test

    • Duker

       /  23rd February 2020

      Decriminalisation has already passed in parliament.

      “The Act affirms the existing Police discretion. It specifies that when determining whether a prosecution is required in the public interest for personal drug possession and use, consideration should be given to whether a health approach is more beneficial.

      The discretion emphasises the Government’s health based approach to personal drug use, and reinforces the Police focus on those who profit from drug dealing and not those who use illicit drugs.”

      • thats just political B-S.. Cannabis is still a ‘Class C’ ILLEGAL Drug under MODA 75.. ie; a Criminal offense.. that police can still arrest anyone for.

        M Mitchell (ex-cop current Natl MP) recently said in parliament (paraphrased) ‘The War on Drugs is not over, nor will it be as long as he has a say on it’
        Methinks this still reflects most of the ‘Police culture/mindset’.
        “Is that cannabis I smell.. turn out your pockets”
        > ‘just doing their jobs’ being the mantra

        • only a majority YES vote on 19/9/20.. will probably make this change !

          • Duker

             /  23rd February 2020

            You dont know what decriminalisation means , its doesnt mean legalisation

            Different stages…. being arrested for a joint highly unlikely unless you have committed another crime.
            Conviction is practically impossible unless classed as a dealer.

          • Duker

             /  23rd February 2020

            Why not still have it as class C
            Its a harmful drug of addiction….Im pretty sure you have an addiction…tell us about the ‘need’ to smoke everyday or so.

            • say you…. SO based on that; do you think alcohol should be reclassified as a ‘harmful Drug of addiction’ too & made illegal ? :/

            • I think thats called… a total Double-Standard, dont you ?!

            • Duker

               /  23rd February 2020

              Not a double standard ….but you are diverting …as I think alcohol restrictions should be tightened….how about quantity restrictions at each purchase?

  7. duperez

     /  23rd February 2020

    I’ve just read through all this stuff and it’s so confusing. Tell you what, I’ll just believe everything Paula Bennett says. 🙃

  8. Zedd

     /  23rd February 2020

    I keep hearing things like:

    1) no one is arrested for cannabis possession

    2) prohibition is about keeping the drugs from youth/kids

    3) the end of the world is coming/the sky will fall.. if we legalise cannabis

    & other ongoing MISINFO.

    my responses:

    1) maybe not in 2020.. BUT how many 1000s of otherwise law abiding kiwis have been & are still tainted with a criminal conviction (40+ years later)

    2) Prohibition is about keeping ‘drugs’ (exc. Alcohol/tobacco) from everyone; inc. Adults who should have ‘Freedom of Choice’ not just booze/cigs (also Drugs)

    3) some folks need to just, look outside the square; to many other countries who have already regulated cannabis (in some form): Canada, USA states, parts of EU, some Aust. states, Uruguay etc.
    > They are finding the opposite. Use rates among youth ARE dropping (no longer ‘forbidden fruit’) & they are focusing on health care & education.. rather than : arrest, prosecute & convict.. eff. ZERO-tolerance

    *as I mentioned above.. they tried Prohibition with Alcohol in 1920s USA: it was deemed a total Failure that was repealed in 1933 ! Interestingly they passed the ‘Marihuana Tax act’ in 1937, which was the precursor to the global ban, under UN convention 1961

    Why are people so blinded to this.. by propaganda & B-S ?
    ** perhaps; Ignorance is bliss (to them ?) It is time to “WAKE UP & smell the buds” 🙂

    • Duker

       /  23rd February 2020

      “maybe not in 2020.. BUT how many 1000s of otherwise law abiding kiwis have been & are still tainted with a criminal conviction (40+ years later)”

      And this is a reason for changing the law NOW….. wait a minute theres no proposal to wipe previous convictions, so that wont change.
      I presume your interest in this matter is because you have such a conviction

      You give no real reasons that will convince others other than “its part of your way of life” – my reading between the lines.
      Doesnt cut the mustard..


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