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Cannabis referendum narrows but tracking to pass

Thursday, 9 May 2019

Cannabis referendum narrows but tracking to pass

The Government's 2020 referendum on the personal use of recreational cannabis would pass albeit the result might be closer than was indicated six months earlier, according to a significant independent survey of over 1,100 New Zealanders.

The release of the survey results follows the Government confirming its commitment on Tuesday to hold a binding referendum on legalising the personal use of cannabis at next year’s General Election. Cabinet has also agreed there will be a simple Yes/No question, on the basis of a draft piece of legislation.

Horizon Research has been commissioned again by New Zealand's largest licensed medicinal cannabis company, Helius Therapeutics, to survey people on their voting intentions ahead of next year’s referendum.

Of those surveyed, 52% of adult New Zealanders said they would vote to support legalising the personal use of cannabis, with 37% against, while 11% had no opinion.

Six months earlier, in October, Horizon Research asked the same question, with 60% then saying yes, 24% against, and 16% having no opinion.

Paul Manning, Executive Director of Helius Therapeutics, is not surprised the likely referendum result appears to be getting tighter.

He says when the first survey was conducted last year, cannabis and its many health benefits were getting a lot of positive air time as Parliament was debating the medicinal cannabis bill with the broad issue achieving strong support across all political parties.

“Without doubt, the commentary around cannabis has shifted in recent months. We’re now seeing some concerted scaremongering by conservative groups and others about cannabis being legalised for personal use, complete with at least one questionable poll suggesting hardly anyone wanted it,” says Mr Manning.

“Now eighteen months from the referendum we’ve got a comprehensive survey that shows those who support personal use are 15% ahead of those who don’t, while still plenty of Kiwis have no opinion.

“These polls will undoubtedly keep moving around. However what we do know, after commissioning two large surveys on the topic, is that a majority of Kiwis continue to support legalising the personal use of cannabis. There may have been a lot of political noise in recent days, but that statistical fact hasn’t changed in six months,” says Mr Manning.

As well as showing 52% support, the latest survey commissioned by Helius showed, of the four of the five political parties currently in parliament, a clear majority of their supporters were in favour.

Notably, 60% of National supporters would vote against it, with a nearly one third (32%) in favour. At the same time, 83% of Green Party supporters were in favour of legalising cannabis for personal use.

Overall support was equally split between men and women back in October, but the April survey revealed more females than males were in now in favour, with 55% of females and 48% of males saying yes. While the age group most supportive remained those 25 to 34-year-olds with 68% supportive.

“Wherever you sit on the subject of recreational cannabis, the reality is there’s merit in regulation. It will allow us to take control away from gangs, generate tax revenue to further health outcomes, create economic opportunities and manage quality standards.”

Mr Manning says while the focus of Helius remains on developing medicinal cannabis products, legalising personal use would undoubtedly change the future market dynamics.

If the referendum was successful, he believes, it would enable the creation of a wider variety of cannabis-based wellness products. These could include non-prescription health supplements, functional foods, beverages and cosmetics – products that would likely remain inaccessible under medicinal cannabis legislation alone.

"No doubt, 2020 is going to be a watershed year for cannabis. The referendum will take place, while Helius will deliver its first licensed ‘New Zealand Grown’ medicinal cannabis products for patients.

“A key focus this year is working with the Ministry of Health and others to ensure an exemplary Medicinal Cannabis Scheme is developed. It will deliver the required regulations as well as access to meet the desperate needs of so many Kiwis who have been suffering unnecessarily for too long," says Paul Manning.

This follows Helius releasing results last month from the first ever survey of New Zealand medical professionals’ views on medicinal cannabis. It showed a strong willingness from physicians to prescribe products from next year, providing they have sufficient information. It also revealed growing enquiries from patients, including 63% of all GPs surveyed saying they’ve had requests for medicinal cannabis products in the past 12 months.

Commissioned by Helius Therapeutics and carried out independently by Horizon Research, the results are from a nationwide survey of 1,161 adults representing the 18+ population at the 2013 census, conducted between 15 and 28 April 2019. Respondents are members of Horizon’s nationwide research panels. Results are weighted by age, gender, education level, personal income, employment statusand party voted for at the 2017 general election to provide a presentative population sample. At a 95% confidence level, the maximum margin of error is +/- 2.9%.

At this time, do you think you will vote for or against legalising cannabis for personal use in New Zealand?

• 52% say yes

• 37% say no

• 11% have no opinion

Most supporters of most parties now in parliament would vote yes

• ACT: 53% yes/ 28% no

• Green: 83% / 13%

• Labour: 63% / 23%

• National: 32% / 60%

• NZ First: 53% / 40%

Clear majority in all age groups up to 55 years would vote yes

• 18 – 24 years: 68% agree

• 25 – 34 years: 68% agree

• 33 – 44 years: 55% agree

• 45 – 54 years: 53% agree

• 55 – 64 years: 38% agree

• 65 – 74 years: 30% agree

• 75yrs or over: 25% agree


-- ENDS --

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