A majority of New Zealanders intend to vote in favor of the legalization of cannabis in the next referendum to be held in September.
Last May, New Zealand legislators released the final version of the bill that would create a taxed and regulated cannabis retail market partially modeled on Canada’s legal framework for regulating cannabis. Before voting on the bill, legislators chose to first seek public input on the legalization of cannabis for adults.
New Zealand’s next national election, to be held on 19 September, will thus include a referendum question asking voters whether they support the legalization bill or not. The referendum is non-binding, so voters will not be able to legalize cannabis directly with their vote, but legislators have promised to pass the bill if it receives majority support in the referendum.
So far, the country has remained sharply divided over the prospect of legalization. Last August, polls showed that only 39% of Kiwis were in favor of legal cannabis. Last February, a poll conducted by the independent company Horizon Research found support for legalization at 54%. And a new Horizon poll conducted this month suggests that support could be even higher.
The new poll, commissioned by the medical cannabis company NZ Helius Therapeutics, asked 1593 Kiwis whether they would vote yes or no to legalization. This time, 56% of those polled said they would vote yes in the referendum. A demographic analysis of the results revealed that 59% of women were in favor of legalization, compared to only 52% of men.
This result will invigorate the yes and no camps,” Paul Manning, CEO of Helius Therapeutics, told the New Zealand Herald. “It shows how close the vote will be. “Other supporters are positive, but the poll indicates the referendum will succeed.
New Zealanders realize that their yes vote means greater community well-being, sensible regulation and harm reduction for a substance that is widely available while banned,” Green Party MP Chloe Swarbrick, a drug reform advocate, told the Herald. “It has become clear that those advocating for continued prohibition are more focused on moralizing than problem-solving.