Two thirds of New Zealand voters support changing the country's cannabis law, with outright legalisation being the most the popular option.
According to a survey conducted by the NZ Drug Foundation, two thirds of those answering the telephone survey want cannabis to be either legalised (35 per cent) or decriminalised (32 per cent).
Only a third want to keep the status quo.
Support for legalisation has grown seven per cent since the same question was asked in July 2017.
People were strongly in favour of medicinal cannabis being readily available for both pain management and terminal illnesses.
Only 10 per cent want this to stay illegal.
For the first time people were asked how they would vote in the planned referendum on legalising cannabis.
“These results show that New Zealanders are ready for a future under which cannabis is regulated. People realise that the way we’re currently dealing with cannabis isn’t working,” says executive directror Ross Bell.
“Support for both legalisation and decriminalisation has continued to grow. This is good news for those that support treating drug use as a health issue, not a criminal one.
“This is a sign that people are ready to vote for change in the cannabis referendum due to happen on or before the 2020 election.”
The percentage of people that support legal or decriminalised access to medicinal cannabis has gone by 10 per cent compared with last year: 89 per cent say this should be legal or decriminalised for those with a terminal illness, and 87 per cent said it should be available for pain relief.
In 2017 these figures were 81 per cent and 78 per cent respectively.
“This sends a strong message to MPs considering the government’s medical cannabis bill which currently does not go far enough to improve access for a large group of patients.
“The strong and growing support for access to medicinal cannabis is a signal to MPs that people expect change. There will be widespread dissapointment if Parliament fails to listen.”
On adult recreational use, there is support by a majority of voters from across the political spectrum to shift away from the punitive criminal model.
Over the last two years, support for personal possession to be decriminalised or legalised has increased irrespective of which party respondents vote for: support by National Party voters is up 11 per cent, by Labour voters is up six per cent, by NZ First voters is up seven per cent and by Greens voters is up 14 per cent.
For the first time, the survey asked how people would vote in a referendum to legalise the sale of cannabis. The results were split evenly, with 48 per cent in favour of legalisation, and 48 per cent against.
“With the referendum question and date yet to be set, we’ve got time for people to look at different options from overseas, and learn what model would work best for New Zealand. As the debate progresses, we can expect more facts on the table, and for people to become well-informed.
“We’re looking forward to this important discussion. From our perspective, a tightly regulated cannabis model would work best to protect young people, undermine the criminal black market, and remove the burden of criminalisaton. This brings with it social justice, public health and commuity safety benefits.”