An independent survey of nearly 1,000 New Zealanders reveals the Government's 2020 referendum on recreational cannabis use would gain 60 per cent support.
New Zealand's largest licensed medicinal cannabis company, Helius Therapeutics, has released the result after commissioning Horizon Research which surveyed Kiwis on their attitudes towards cannabis, law reform, and its use.
Of those surveyed, 60 per cent of adult New Zealanders say, on first glance, they would vote to support legalising cannabis for personal use in a referendum, with 24 per cent against, while 16 per cent had no opinion.
Of most political parties currently in parliament, a clear majority of their supporters were in favour while notably less than half of National supporters (48 per cent) would actually vote against it, with 33 per cent in favour, and 19 per cent offering no opinion.
At the same time 84 per cent of Green Party supporters were in favour of legalising cannabis for personal use. Overall support was also equally split between men and women - both at 60 per cent - while the age group most supportive was those between 25 to 34-year-olds at 75 per cent.
Last month the Government also announced the referendum to be held at the 2020 general election would be binding as part of the confidence and supply agreement between the Labour and the Greens. This commitment is supported by the majority of survey participants with 53 per cent saying the Government should be bound by the referendum result.
On legalised production, sales and tax, 68 per cent of all Kiwis believe that any tax revenue from the sale of legal cannabis products should be spent on health services; 63 per cent agree that those producing and selling cannabis should be regulated and licensed; 58 per cent believe that penalties for breaking any laws governing the sale of cannabis for legal personal use should about the same as those for breaking laws on alcohol sales; and those 60 per cent believe that legal cannabis will result in lower levels of crime or have no effect.
The survey also reveals that 55 per cent of adult New Zealanders say they have used cannabis at some time during their lives. On the question of frequency, 10 per cent of all survey respondents said they use cannabis daily - equating to around 340,000 Kiwis.
Executive Director of Helius Therapeutics Paul Manning says the referendum support will be encouraging for the many New Zealanders who support the liberalisation of recreational cannabis use.
Whilst his company's focus remains on researching and developing cannabis therapeutics, legalising recreational use will further change the future market dynamics.
"From this survey, it appears a majority of New Zealanders will vote yes at the 2020 referendum. It’s also encouraging for us to see an overwhelming 81 per cent of Kiwis continue to support the legal production of medicines from cannabis.
“This very strong support for medicinal use reflects other poll results we've seen calling for widespread access to cannabis for therapeutic purposes.
“If New Zealand follows a similar path to Canada, where both medical and recreational sales are permitted, we will see the total domestic market for cannabis-based products expand significantly," says Paul.
"Although we have no plans to operate in the recreational space, the referendum could open up the opportunity to offer New Zealanders a wider variety of cannabis-based wellness products, such as functional foods, beverages and cosmetics. Many of these would likely remain prohibited under medicinal cannabis legislation alone," he says.
Paul notes that the Horizon survey reveals supporters of all the parties currently in parliament overwhelming favour legal cannabis use in medicines, including 77 per cent of National supporters.
The Government passed The Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Amendment Bill late last year, setting the way for the creation of a medicinal cannabis scheme that will allow New Zealand companies like Helius to manufacture medicinal cannabis products for both the local and international markets. Regulations, licensing rules and quality standards will be set on expert advice within a year.
"2020 is going to be a watershed year for cannabis. The referendum on legalising personal use will take place while at the same time licensed ‘New Zealand Grown’ medicinal cannabis products from Helius are expected to be available, to ease the suffering of many New Zealand patients."
Paul says 2019 will also be an important year - when the voices of mainstream New Zealanders will again need to be heard with the Ministry of Health set to release a consultation paper, asking for public input on the design of the medicinal cannabis regulations.
Commissioned by Helius Therapeutics and carried out independently by Horizon Research, the results are from a nationwide survey of 995 adults representing the 18+ population at the 2013 census, conducted between October 10 and 26 2018.
Respondents are members of Horizon’s nationwide research panels. Results are weighted by age, gender, education level, personal income and employment status to provide a presentative population sample. At a 95 per cent confidence level, the maximum margin of error is +/- 3.1 per cent.