UMR cannabis poll suggests close referendum

A new UMR cannabis poll has quite a different result to a recent Colmar Brunton poll.

Last week from 1 News: Support for cannabis legalisation dropping, End of Life Choice remains steady

Poll question: ‘Do you support the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill?’ (the same question that will be asked as a referendum at the election). 

Support the bill:

  • November 2019 – 43%
  • February 2020 – 39%
  • June 2020 – 40%
  • September 2020 – 35%

Oppose the bill:

  • February 2020 – 51%
  • June 2020 – 49%
  • September 2020 – 53%

11% did not know or refused to answer.

1 NEWS Colmar Brunton Poll: Between September 17 and 21, 2020, 1008 eligible voters were polled by landline (405) and mobile phone (603). The maximum sampling error is approximately ±3.1%-points at the 95% confidence level. Results higher and lower than 50% have a smaller sampling error. The data has been weighted to align with Stats NZ population counts for age, gender, region, ethnic identification and mobile or landline access.

A Narrow Majority Support Cannabis Legalisation 

A new poll released by the Helen Clark Foundation and the New Zealand Drug Foundation shows that cannabis legalisation would pass if the referendum were held today. 

It doesn’t show that, it just suggests that it is currently possible a majority might support the the referendum ‘if held today’ (voting started last Saturday and runs for two weeks).

Support:

  • February 2020 – 46%
  • September 2020 – 48%

Oppose the bill:

  • February 2020 – 44%
  • September 2020 – 43%

Oddly Stuff report a slightly different result to the Helen Clark Foundation 49% for, 45% against – see Cannabis reform would pass if referendum held today: Poll

What these different poll resultss suggest is we will have to wait for the referendum result to see what those who are motivated enough to vote actually think.

Official referendum website: Cannabis legalisation and control referendum

End of Life Choice and Cannabis referendums

Voting for the 2020 election opens in New Zealand today and continues for two weeks through to election day on Saturday 17 October.

As well as our two MMP votes for a party and for an electorate candidate, we also get to vote on two referendums.

End of Life Choice referendum

In this referendum, you can vote on whether the End of Life Choice Act 2019 should come into force. The Act would give people with a terminal illness the option of requesting assisted dying.

The referendum question is:

Do you support the End of Life Choice Act 2019 coming into force?

You can choose 1 of these 2 answers:

  • Yes, I support the End of Life Choice Act 2019 coming into force.
  • No, I do not support the End of Life Choice Act 2019 coming into force.

Learn more about the End of Life Choice referendum

Cannabis legalisation and control referendum

In this referendum, you can vote on whether the recreational use of cannabis should become legal.

The referendum question is:

Do you support the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill?

You can choose 1 of these 2 answers:

  • Yes, I support the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill.
  • No, I do not support the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill.

Learn more about the cannabis legalisation and control referendum

Cannabis referendum poll closed up

A Horizon Research survey, commissioned for Helius Therapeutics and (provided exclusively to Stuff) show that support and opposition for the cannabis referendum has closed up to even.

Stuff: New poll shows dead heat in legalise dope vote

I wish they would give things their proper name.

The referendum options are:

  • “Yes, I support the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill.”
  • “No, I do not support the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill”.
Image

“For nearly two years we’ve tracked public opinion, and this is an incredible result given early voting starts in just over four weeks. It’s increasingly clear that it will come down to voter registration and election turnout, particularly if younger adults lift their intention to vote,” chief executive of Helius Therapeutics Paul Manning said.

That sounds like standard over-egging the importance of a single poll.

When respondents were given a “not sure” option, 12 per cent took it, leaving 44 per cent in favour and 41 per cent against. The poll then gave people a binary yes/no choice to replicate the choice that people will face when they walk in to vote from October 3. That figure is a dead heat.

People who are not sure are probably less likely to vote. It is still over six weeks until the referendum (and election), but early voting starts in about four weeks.

It looks like opinion is closing up:

Age differences aren’t surprising:

Young people are less likely to vote and older people are more likely to vote so this favours the no vote.

Conducted between 20 and 25 August, the survey sampled over 1300 New Zealanders, and has a margin of error of 2.7 per cent.


The referendum question is:

Do you support the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill?

  • Yes
    I support the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill.
  • No
    I do not support the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill.

About the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill

The proposed Bill sets out a way for the Government to control and regulate cannabis. This regulatory model covers how people can produce, supply, or consume cannabis.

The Bill’s main purpose is to reduce cannabis-related harm to individuals, families/whānau and communities.

The Bill legalises restricted access to cannabis

The Bill would allow people to possess and consume cannabis in limited circumstances.

A person aged 20 or over would be able to:

  • buy up to 14 grams of dried cannabis (or its equivalent) per day only from licensed outlets
  • enter licensed premises where cannabis is sold or consumed
  • consume cannabis on private property or at licensed premises
  • grow up to 2 plants, with a maximum of 4 plants per household
  • share up to 14 grams of dried cannabis (or its equivalent) with another person aged 20 or over.

The Bill’s purpose is to reduce harm to people and communities

The Bill intends to reduce cannabis-related harm to individuals, families/whānau and communities by:

  • providing access to legal cannabis that meets quality and potency requirements
  • eliminating the illegal supply of cannabis
  • raising awareness of the health risks associated with cannabis use
  • restricting young people’s access to cannabis
  • limiting the public visibility of cannabis
  • requiring health warnings on packaging and at the time of purchase
  • improving access to health and social services, and other kinds of support for families/whānau
  • making sure the response to any breach of the law is fair.

The Bill controls the production and supply of cannabis

The Bill would regulate how cannabis is produced and supplied by:

  • limiting the total amount of licensed cannabis for sale
  • controlling the potency and contents of licensed cannabis and cannabis products
  • applying an excise tax when a product is packaged and labelled for sale
  • setting up a licensing system under which all cannabis-related businesses must hold a licence
  • regulating location and trading hours for premises where cannabis is sold or consumed, in consultation with local communities
  • banning people from importing cannabis and allowing only licensed businesses to import cannabis seeds
  • separating businesses that are licensed to grow cannabis and produce cannabis products from businesses that are licensed to operate premises where cannabis can be sold and consumed.

What’s not included in this referendum?

The proposed Bill does not cover medicinal cannabis, hemp, driving while impaired, or workplace health and safety issues. These are covered by existing laws.

Medicinal cannabis is already legal under the Medicinal Cannabis Scheme.

Source: https://www.referendums.govt.nz/cannabis/index.html

Euthanasia and cannabis polls

Research NZ has bing doing polls related to the referendums on euthanasia and cannabis.

Asked whether they were in favour or not in favour of the legislation which allows terminally ill adults to request a medically assisted death:

  • 64% in favour
  • 18% not in favour
  • 7% don’t know

Research NZ managing partner Emanuel Kalafatelis said 52 percent of survey respondents said they had recently seen or heard information about legalising euthanasia, while 55 percent said they had thought about the issue and about a third had discussed it with their friends and family.

…the figure shows a softening in the level of support and when the same question was asked in December last year approximately 70 percent of respondents were in favour of the legislation, while the number of those strongly in favour of the legislation dropped from 50 percent six months ago to 33 percent today.

Kalafatelis said there is a relatively higher level of support among older age groups, but the level of support across all age groups is well over 50 percent.

“Are you in favour or not in favour of a government controlling by law how cannabis is grown, manufactured and sold in New Zealand for recreational use.”

  • 43% in favour
  • 39% against

These results do not show any major difference with the results from the cannabis poll taken six months ago, he said.

Kalafatelis said there is quite significant support for legalising cannabis among younger age groups, with the level of support at 57 percent amongst the 18 to 24 year olds.

Report: Kiwis back euthanasia, split on legalising cannabis – poll

Official information:

Cannabis legalisation and control referendum

End of Life Choice referendum

Horizon poll: Small majority support cannabis legislation

A Horizon Research poll of 1593 respondents asked if they would vote yes for the Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill in a non-binding referendum, which will be held alongside the general election.

  • Yes 56%

There is small change in favour of the legislation since a previous poll in February where 54% said Yes, but both are up a lot from an August 2019 poll that had just 39% in support.

I can’t find the results on the Horizon website, this is from an NZ herald report – Growing majority of Kiwis support legalising cannabis, new poll finds – that doesn’t give numbers for No or Don’t Know/Undecided.

Gender in favour:

  • Female 59%
  • Male 52%

By party supporters in favour:

  • Greens 81%
  • Labour 72%
  • ACT 70%
  • NZ First 53%
  • National 38%

The age group most in favour of legalising cannabis was 25-34 years: 72%.
Least in favour were those over 75 years:  27%.

There’s no real surprises in these results.

Respondents to the latest survey came from Horizon’s nationwide research panels and represent the adult population of the 2018 Census with results weighted by factors including age, gender, income and party voted for at the last election. The maximum margin of error is 2.9 per cent.

This poll suggests a leaning towards support of the cannabis legislation but it isn’t a big majority.

 


About the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill

The proposed Bill sets out a way for the Government to control and regulate cannabis. This regulatory model covers how people can produce, supply, or consume cannabis.

The Bill’s main purpose is to reduce cannabis-related harm to individuals, families/whānau and communities.The Bill legalises restricted access to cannabis

The Bill would allow people to possess and consume cannabis in limited circumstances.

A person aged 20 or over would be able to:

  • buy up to 14 grams of dried cannabis (or its equivalent) per day only from licensed outlets
  • enter licensed premises where cannabis is sold or consumed
  • consume cannabis on private property or at a licensed premise
  • grow up to 2 plants, with a maximum of 4 plants per household
  • share up to 14 grams of dried cannabis (or its equivalent) with another person aged 20 or over.The Bill’s purpose is to reduce harm to people and communities

The Bill intends to reduce cannabis-related harm to individuals, families/whānau and communities by:

  • providing access to legal cannabis that meets quality and potency requirements
  • eliminating the illegal supply of cannabis
  • raising awareness of the health risks associated with cannabis use
  • restricting young people’s access to cannabis
  • limiting the public visibility of cannabis
  • requiring health warnings on packaging and at the time of purchase
  • improving access to health and social services, and other kinds of support for families/whānau
  • making sure the response to any breach of the law is fair.

The Bill controls the production and supply of cannabis

The Bill would regulate how cannabis is produced and supplied by:

  • limiting the total amount of licensed cannabis for sale
  • controlling the potency and contents of licensed cannabis and cannabis products
  • applying an excise tax when a product is packaged and labelled for sale
  • setting up a licensing system under which all cannabis-related businesses must hold a licence
  • regulating location and trading hours for premises where cannabis is sold or consumed, in consultation with local communities
  • banning people from importing cannabis and allowing only licensed businesses to import cannabis seeds
  • separating businesses that are licensed to grow cannabis and produce cannabis products from businesses that are licensed to operate premises where cannabis can be sold and consumed.

What’s not included in this referendum?

The proposed Bill does not cover medicinal cannabis, hemp, driving while impaired, or workplace health and safety issues. These are covered by existing laws.

Medicinal cannabis is already legal under the Medicinal Cannabis Scheme.

 Learn about medicinal cannabis at health.govt.nz 

Cannabis referendum could be ignored or low priority by incoming Government

We get to vote on the cannabis legislation that allows for recreational for those 20 or older bit with strict controls.

But will the next Government honour the result if a majority vote in favour? There’s no guarantee of that as it is not a binding referendum.

The cannabis reform bill got this far due to a governing agreement between Greens and Labour at the Green Party’s request. The Greens have not had a strong influence in Government (they operate outside Cabinet) and the Bill is quite conservative.

And it could still be ignored or put on the back burner. At best it could take a year or two to happen, depending on what priority the Government gives it in the next term.

If Greens don’t make the threshold, or just get in again with a small number of MPs, or are rejected by Labour in the next governing arrangement (NZ First may make a condition of support being that Greens are left out), then Greens may have little or no say.

NZ First + Labour may not honour the referendum result, but that would be a ridiculous stance for NZ First given their insistence on referendums to let the people decide.

If National lead the next Government they may ignore the will of the people, they have been very conservative on cannabis reform.

But a possibility that should not be ignored is if Act get a few seats and enable National to govern – they may insist on change.

Peter Dunne discusses these issues except the last point (Newsroom):  Cannabis questions dropped in too hard basket?

Given that the moves towards freeing up the recreational cannabis market were primarily Green Party initiatives that neither Labour nor especially New Zealand First were all that keen about, the proposal that has now emerged hangs together reasonably well. It is an improvement on the current de facto situation, and for that reason alone is worth supporting in the referendum.

However, possibly reflecting the awkwardness of its development, it is far from perfect, with a significant number of issues either apparently unresolved, or seemingly parked in a very deep too hard basket.

What happens if the referendum supports change?

The present Government has made it clear that while it will not regard the outcome as binding, it will undertake to introduce reform legislation at some unspecified time during the next Parliamentary term.

There is no guarantee within that commitment that any such legislation will mirror the referendum proposals or that the Labour Party will even support it beyond its introduction stage. If, for example, the Greens have less influence in the next government, what influence will that have on the shape of legislation? Conversely, if the next government is more reliant on New Zealand First, what assurance is there that a Bill will even make it to the introduction stage?

Should the National Party lead the next government, the prospects for any form of legislative change following on from a positive referendum vote seem pretty low, based on statements to date from its various spokespeople.

They reinforce my own experience working as Associate Health Minister responsible for drug policy, in the last National-led government where National was extraordinarily wary of any changes to drug laws.

How long it will take to pass such legislation?

Typically, a Bill of this type takes between six and nine months to pass through all its stages in the House, including the select committee process and the hearing of public submissions.

Even if such a Bill were to be introduced early in the life of the next government, it would most probably be the latter half of 2021 at the absolute earliest before it would be passed by Parliament. Again, typically, allowing time of say two to three months as a minimum for the development and implementation of the regulatory regime to follow, it would most likely be late next year at the earliest before recreational cannabis could be legally available.

So if the law change is supported will people wait until it actually becomes law? If not, how will the Police deal with it?

In the meantime, assuming a vote for change, there will be a strong public feeling that having voted for change it should be permissible to use cannabis recreationally immediately.

That would put the police in a very awkward position. Would they be quietly encouraged to go lightly on the current law, because it is about to change, which would be a very dangerous precedent, or would they be expected to keep enforcing a law that everyone knows is about to be overturned?

Either way, their position is invidious, and does not appear to have given been sufficient consideration. Certainly, to date, the Government has given no indication of its thinking on this point, which is not helpful.

Maybe they haven’t thought about it. The Greens should be making sure the Government does think ahead on this.

Presumably, the police would be expected to enforce these new restrictions vigorously, otherwise they are pointless. But enforcement of this type would lead to more people coming before the Courts for diversion, a fine, community service, or even possible imprisonment.

However, the current law on illegal use has been barely enforced by the police for years now, so it is an open question whether they would be any more diligent in enforcing any new, tighter law. And if they are not going to do so, what is the point of making the law tougher?

Current policing attitudes notwithstanding, one of the strongest criticisms over the years from cannabis reform advocates has been of what they have seen as the clogging of the Courts from cannabis prosecutions and the consequent labelling for life of many people with criminal records as drug offenders.

Yet under the new regime, this could potentially intensify, making the situation much less satisfactory than at present.

An unintended consequence could be more arrests and convictions.

All this could be rendered moot if the majority vote against change.

If a small majority vote for change it may give National or NZ First (or Labour without the Greens) to drag it out over years, or ignore it altogether.

The best way to make it difficult to ignore the referendum result is for a significant majority to vote in favour of the modest reform being proposed, but it could be difficult getting enough to see it this way.

“Sane, safe proposals for legislation of cannabis”

From the New Zealand Medical Cannabis Council:


Medicinal cannabis industry welcomes sane, safe proposals for legislation of cannabis

The head of the New Zealand medicinal cannabis industry association is welcoming the release of the cannabis legalisation and control bill that will be voted on at the referendum as part of the general election this year.

Sally King of the NZ Medical Cannabis Council and says that while members will have their individual views, she believes the bill is designed to increase controls around access to cannabis by taking it out of the hands of criminals and young people.

“The Government has clearly looked at overseas examples of what works and come up with what looks like the best options globally to reduce access to young people and protect communities from harm.”

One of the biggest  lessons from Canada was that the medicinal and adult-use systems need to be kept quite separate.   The NZ Medicinal Cannabis Scheme became operational last month.

“The Medicinal Cannabis Scheme in New Zealand has been established with rules requiring pharmaceutical grade products only available through pharmacies and at this stage only through prescriptions. It is essential that medicinal cannabis production doesn’t get mixed up with non-medicinal or we will lose the trust and confidence of prescribers and patients.”

Ms King said allowing a small amount to be homegrown and the restrictions on legal age, public consumption and selling without a license would mean the plant is no longer controlled by gangs and criminals because people will be able to grow their own.

“The current laws are not working.  The level of Police resources tied up in prosecuting people in possession of a small amount for personal use is just ridiculous; and in 2017 half of prosecutions for minor drug offences were Māori.”

Ms King said while the Canadian experience was far from perfect and there were a number of lessons to be learnt, it was also clear that the sky hadn’t fallen in, thousands of jobs had been created, motor vehicle accidents and youth access hadn’t increased.

In both the United States and Canada, legalisation has been associated with minor increases in adult use of cannabis, but youth use has remained stable or decreased (following pre-legalisation trends). In fact, from 2018–2019, since legalisation Canada has seen the biggest drop in youth use (those aged 15–17) in history, going from 19.8% to 10.4%. It is often older age groups, those aged 45–64, who report the highest increases in use following legalisation, possibly reflecting therapeutic use in older populations.

While Canada is only 18 months into legalisation after a century of prohibition, other lessons NZ has clearly noted from the Canadian experience and avoided in the proposed bill  include the problems caused by a complex regulatory process, and long delays in licensing with not enough stores accessible, problems with quality and allowing corporate domination of the  industry instead of ensuring the opportunities are available to small producers and suppliers.

Final Cannabis Legislation and Control Bill to be voted on at referendum

A ‘complete and final’ version of the Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill will be voted on in a referendum as a part of this year’s election currently scheduled for September.

The wording of the cannabis referendum question has also been confirmed as a straight Yes/No question:

Do you support the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill?

  • Yes, I support the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill
  • No, I do not support the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill

I’m pleased about this, we will know exactly what we’re voting for or against.


Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill released

Publication of the exposure draft Bill on referendums.govt.nz follows the release of an interim version of the Bill in December last year and is part of the Government’s commitment to ensuring the voting public have ample opportunity to be informed ahead of this year’s referendums.

“It is important that all eligible voters have the opportunity to be informed about the upcoming referendums. The Government is committed to providing impartial, unbiased information on the referendums and its process,” Andrew Little said.

The exposure draft Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill has been updated and includes details about:

  • how the cannabis market would work and the phased introduction of cannabis starting with fresh and dried cannabis, cannabis plants and seeds
  • how the regulation of consumption premises would work
  • the approvals process for cannabis products and which products would be prohibited
  • the licensing requirements
  • how the Bill proposes to reduce young people’s exposure to cannabis; and
  • infringements and penalties

No further updates of the Bill will be made before the referendum.


From the Referendums website: Summary of the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill

The Bill’s purpose is to reduce cannabis-related harm to individuals, families/whānau and communities

The Bill would do this by:

  • providing access to legal cannabis that meets quality and potency requirements
  • eliminating the illegal supply of cannabis
  • raising awareness of the health risks associated with cannabis use
  • restricting young people’s access to cannabis
  • limiting the public visibility of cannabis
  • requiring health warnings on packaging and at the time of purchase
  • improving access to health and social services, and other kinds of support for families/whānau
  • making sure the response to any breach of the law is fair, encourages compliance and reduces overall harm.

People aged 20 or over could buy cannabis

A person aged 20 or over would be able to:

  • buy cannabis, but only from businesses with a licence to sell cannabis
  • enter licensed premises where cannabis is sold or consumed
  • consume cannabis at a home or at licensed premises
  • purchase up to 14 grams of dried cannabis (or its equivalent) per day
  • share up to 14 grams of dried cannabis (or its equivalent) with another person aged 20 or over.

People aged 20 or over could grow, possess and consume cannabis

A person aged 20 or over would be able to grow 2 cannabis plants. The maximum number of plants per household is 4. Plants would need to be grown at home and out of sight, or not be accessible from public areas.

A person aged 20 or over would be able to possess up to 14 grams of dried cannabis (or its equivalent) in public.

The Bill would establish that 14 grams of dried cannabis is equal to:

  • 70 grams of fresh cannabis
  • 14 cannabis seeds
  • 210 grams of cannabis edibles
  • 980 grams of liquids
  • 3.5 grams of concentrates.

The Bill would prohibit people younger than 20 from growing, possessing and consuming cannabis

A person under age 20 found in possession of cannabis would receive a health-based response such as an education session, social or health service, or they would pay a small fee or fine. This would not lead to a conviction.

Rules for premises where cannabis is sold or consumed

Age limit

A person must be aged 20 or over to enter, or work at, premises where cannabis is sold or consumed.

Restrictions on the appearance of premises

There would be restrictions on the appearance of premises. These would include rules against promoting the fact that cannabis is available for purchase inside.

Host responsibilities

People operating retail and consumption premises would need to:

  • ensure their employees have responsible host training (this would be compulsory)
  • display information about the legal requirements they must meet, including minimising harm and meeting their obligations towards people who may be impaired by cannabis consumption
  • comply with restrictions on the display of higher risk products.

What products could be bought and sold?

Licensed cannabis products would become legal in stages, starting with dried cannabis, fresh cannabis, cannabis plants, and cannabis seeds.

The Authority would have the power to authorise the introduction of other licensed products for sale, including concentrates and cannabis edibles, through regulations.

Some products would be banned

A number of licensed products would be prohibited, including:

  • beverages that include cannabis
  • products containing substances known to be harmful or to have harmful interactions with cannabis (such as alcohol and tobacco)
  • products designed to increase the psychoactive or addictive effects of cannabis
  • packaged dried or fresh cannabis containing roots or stems
  • products that involve ways of consuming cannabis that are higher risk, including injectables, suppositories, and products for the eyes, ears or nose.

People would be prohibited from feeding cannabis or cannabis products to animals.

Cannabis edibles would have to meet specific requirements

Cannabis edibles are cannabis products that are consumed in the same manner as food. They would be required to be solid at room temperature.

More specific requirements for cannabis edibles would include:

  • they must be restricted to baked products that do not require refrigeration or heating
  • they must be produced in separate premises to those used for conventional food production
  • they would be banned if they are found to appeal to children and young people.

What would be illegal?

Some things would be illegal, including:

  • consuming cannabis in public
  • possessing more than 14 grams of cannabis (or its equivalent) in public
  • growing more cannabis plants at home than the individual or household limit
  • growing cannabis in public
  • exposing people under age 20 to cannabis smoke or vape
  • supplying cannabis to people under age 20
  • selling cannabis without a licence
  • importing or exporting cannabis
  • supplying cannabis by mail order or courier
  • breaching the conditions of a licence.

More details:

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.

And:

 

I think most voters can manage a couple of referendum votes as well as party and candidate votes

That sounds like nonsense to me. I’m fairly sure most voters will be able to manage a couple of referendum votes on top of a couple of general election votes (one party vote, one electorate vote).

It will still be far simpler than local body elections where there are multiple STV votes (here it was city mayor, city council, regional council and DHB board) where ranking of a large number of candidates is required.

The two referendums – one on cannabis, the other on the End of Life Choice bill – may attract more people to vote.

More negative commentary on the referendums:  Labour and the referendums of dread

Both of these referendums are a potential problem for the Government and not insignificant ones. The first and most obvious reason is that cannabis and euthanasia could crowd out whatever issues the Government is running on: be it the Zero Carbon Bill, trade deals, a strong economy, low unemployment.

This could, of course, be a problem for both the Government and the Opposition. At key points in the lead-up to and during the campaign, either party’s momentum could be stalled if the wrong drug or euthanasia issue crops up.

But the political downsides are potentially much worse for the Government. First, and most obviously, the National party has a leader who genuinely and simply opposes both of these things. And secondly, as this column flagged a couple of weeks ago, National is going to sharpen its focus on cost of living issues, which it sees as of key importance for voters. National can effectively paint any focus away from those things as a distracted Government concerned with peripheral issues.

The euthanasia bill is probably not so much of a problem – it wasn’t the Government’s idea and it was supported by MPs across the political divide. Cannabis is a different story. Counting the Nats, NZ First voters at the last election – nominally conservative voters, plus probably not an insubstantial conservative working class Labour vote, this could be a lose-lose issue for Labour. Lots of Labour voters, and the Prime Minister has said this of her own experience growing up in small rural towns, know the damage drugs can do.

While Ardern may see merits in legalisation for health reasons, she is very far from being some sort of pro-drug flag-waving leftie. Essentially the Prime Minister wants to be a citizen like everyone else in this issue, in all the difficulties it poses. The problem is that in the heat of a campaign, that could be politically difficult.

Yet as the election moves on, the issues could prove hard to avoid and there is probably no ‘right’ side of the argument for Labour. It could potentially lose votes either way.

It could potentially do nothing like this as well.

The fact is we are having two referendums alongside next year’s general election.

I’m fairly sure Labour and National will figure out campaign strategies the run alongside the referendum issue debates.

And I think that most voters will manage a couple of yes/no votes (if they choose to vote on the referendum questions) as well as choosing a party and an electorate candidate (if they bother to vote on these).

It won’t be complicated. Sure the extra votes could deter a few people from voting. But I think it is more likely to encourage more people to vote – those who are passionate about either of the referendum questions, and those who can’t usually be bothered voting for parties and politicians.