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New Poll Shows Overwhelming Support For Reform Of Cannabis Laws

In research released by The Helen Clark Foundation today, 69% of voters wanted cannabis to be decriminalised (20%) or legalised (49%). Only 30% of respondents thought our cannabis laws should stay the same or get tougher.

NZ Drug Foundation Executive Director Sarah Helm said: “The research released today shows the public is overwhelmingly dissatisfied with the status quo, with the vast majority of voters wanting either legalisation or decriminalisation of cannabis. While the referendum proposal on a specific approach to legalisation was narrowly voted down last year, 39% of those who voted against it in the referendum actually want cannabis decriminalised.”

“We continue to see thousands of New Zealanders convicted of low-level cannabis offences, even though it is clear from the research that very few of us believe that Kiwis should be being criminalised for these. The evidence shows that cannabis convictions do absolutely nothing whatsoever to deter use. Given how ineffective our punitive approach to cannabis is, we are currently doing very little to reduce cannabis harm as a country.”

“Young people, Maori and men bear the burden of cannabis convictions. And while the Police and Ministers are committed to trying to improve the situation, people continue to face convictions.”

“We also have an untenable situation with 1000s of patients who cannot access medicinal cannabis products. Many of these are falling foul of the law by making their own products or purchasing on the black market, which decriminalisation would go some way to addressing.”

“We applaud the government’s shift towards a health-based approach to drugs, yet there is more to be done.”

“A health-based approach requires interventions to support people with harmful drug use, and a shift away from relying on ineffective punitive tools. That means decriminalising cannabis use and funding a range of health interventions and services.”

“At the moment, unless someone has an addiction, there is very little in the way of support, advice, guidance or information for illicit drug use.”

“There is a global shift away from the so-called ‘war on drugs’ gathering pace in places like the USA and Canada. Evidence has shown that where decriminalisation of drug use and a raft of health interventions have been put in place, such as in Portugal, harmful drug use has declined, including among young people. In Canada, which legalised cannabis in October 2018, use by young people has gone down and rates for regular daily adult use have remained unchanged.”

“New Zealand law relies on Police discretion to decide whether a person should be convicted of a low-level drug offence or not. We are grateful to hear the Minister of Health and Minister of Police are undertaking further investigation into this, because it isn’t working. We ask that it not be left to discretion and for a health-based approach to be taken.”

[1] In 2019/20 1776 people were convicted with a low-level cannabis offence. Of those, 230 had a low-level cannabis conviction alone and no other convictions. Ministry of Justice (2020). Cannabis Offences [data file]. Retrieved 13 October 2020 from https://www.justice.govt. nz/justice-sector-policy/research-data/justice-statistics/ data-tables/.

[2] Lenton, “Cannabis Policy and the Burden of Proof: Is It Now Beyond Reasonable Doubt That Cannabis Prohibition Is Not Working?,” Drug and Alcohol Review 19, no. 1 (2000)

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