A new poll commissioned by conservative Christian lobbyist group Family First has found that less than 20% of New Zealanders support legalisation of recreational marijuana, but there is strong support for its medicinal use.
The independent poll, carried out earlier this month by Curia Market Research, surveyed 1000 randomly selected people reflective of overall voters.
But the results contradict previous polls, conducted in New Zealand using similar sample sizes, which have found that Kiwis tend to be evenly divided on the issue. For instance, a 1 NEWS Colmar Brunton poll conducted in October suggested that 46% of Kiwis were in favour of legalisation of cannabis for personal use and 41% were against.
New Zealand is set to hold a referendum at the 2020 election on legalising marijuana.
In the latest poll, weakest support for legalising marijuana came from National voters (7%), NZ First voters (19%) and Labour voters (28%). Even among Green Party voters, the poll suggests, recreational legalisation only received 53% support.
The Family First poll also asked questions about the link between cannabis use and accidents, if the drug is likely to cause brain damage in users younger than 25 and if usage would decrease the chances of getting a job within the under 25 age range.
In a press release, Family First said 85% of respondents believed cannabis had the potential to damage the brains of young people under age 25, 81% agreed that drivers using cannabis were more likely to cause accidents and 63% believed people under the age of 25 who were regular users of cannabis were less likely to get a job.
In addition, 65% of people questioned in the poll believe restrictions for medical use should be lifted. Eighteen per cent wanted a lift for recreational use and 7% wanted current restrictions to remain as they are.
Family First National Director Bob McCoskrie said “ultimately, the medical profession should be dictating the direction of this debate, not politicians, an anecdotal-wielding lobby, and marijuana advocates with a hidden agenda”.
“At a time when New Zealand’s mental health system is bursting at the seams, should we go no further and legitimise a mind-altering product which will simply add to social harm?” he questioned.
He said Family First supports the rapid expansion of further quality research into the components of the marijuana plant for delivery via non-smoked forms, and the establishment of a programme that allows seriously ill and terminal patients, including children, to obtain other non-smoked components of marijuana approved and listed by the Ministry of Health via their doctor – with appropriate funding and pricing for patients.