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Increased support for medicinal cannabis law reform

UMR poll confirms increased support for medicinal cannabis law reform

Hot on the heels of the NZ Drug Foundation cannabis poll, a new poll by UMR shows increased support for medicinal cannabis law reform, including strong support for treating it as a herbal remedy.

Conducted for Start The Conversation, the poll will help the group decide whether to organise a referendum at the general election next year.

“So politicians now have the choice,” said Helen Kelly. “Force those who are mainly unwell to collect signatures simply so the public will be believed, or act quickly and with mercy and fix this mess up so people like me and many others have safe and legal guaranteed access. That can only happen with a law or policy change.”

Respondents were asked "Should Parliament change the laws of New Zealand so that patients have safe legal access to affordable medicinal cannabis and cannabis products when prescribed by a licensed doctor?"

The previous UMR poll in January 2016 found 72 per cent support – this has now risen to 76 per cent in August, with only 12 per cent opposed and 12 per cent undecided.

“It’s quite remarkable that only 12 per cent were opposed,” said Prof Max Abbott. “This may be the lowest level of opposition ever found in a cannabis opinion poll in New Zealand.”

Respondents were also asked "Should Parliament change the laws of New Zealand so that natural cannabis and medicinal cannabis products are treated as herbal remedies when used therapeutically?”

This was supported by 61 per cent of respondents, opposed by 24 per cent, with 15 per cent undecided.

Crucially for policy makers, support for medicinal cannabis does not collapse when the proposed model treats medicinal cannabis like a herbal remedy rather than a pharmaceutical. Four out of five people who support a relatively strict approach that requires a doctor’s prescription retain their support for a more patient-focused approach that would treat cannabis like a herbal remedy.

“This latest poll reinforces the view that the people of New Zealand are ready for significant reform. There's a clear mandate for change here, with little political risk attached,” said Dr Geoff Noller, a Dunedin-based cannabis policy researcher.

“It shows law makers don’t need to be afraid of public opinion, nor do they need to overly restrict the availability of cannabis with red tape and strict controls,” said Beverley Aldridge of Otamatea Grey Power. “Most New Zealanders support cannabis being treated like a herb, so we can grow our own for health purposes.”

“This depth of support was also shown in the recent NZ Drug Foundation Curia poll, where support for medicinal cannabis limited to patients with a terminal illness was 82 per cent, and only dropped three per cent if it was allowed for “any medical condition””, added Chris Fowlie of NORML NZ. “A healthy majority want cannabis treated as a herbal remedy when it is used therapeutically.”

The new UMR poll also showed:
• Support for a "doctor's prescription" approach is higher among men, older people (60+), Labour & Green voters;
• Support for a "herbal remedy" approach is higher among women, the middle aged (45-59), Green & NZ First voters.

Start The Conversation is a group representing cannabis and community activists, researchers and policy analysts throughout New Zealand, including Helen Kelly, Prof Max Abbott, Dr Geoff Noller, The Cannabis Party, Medical Cannabis Awareness NZ, It’s Medicine (Rose Renton), MildGreens, NORML NZ, and more. Start The Conversation organised a cannabis debate at the Auckland Town Hall in June, which led to this poll, and is holding its next community forum in Whangarei on Saturday 17th September.

The UMR poll is available here: Changing Marijuana laws Jul-16.pptx (open link)

- ENDS –

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