Referendum on Knife Edge as Election Nears

cannabis referendum

With the General Election only weeks away, an independent survey of 1,300 Kiwis shows the referendum on legalising the personal use of cannabis is on a knife-edge.

When asked to make a choice between supporting or opposing the Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill, 49.5 percent of all respondents said they were in favour, 49.5 percent were against, and 1 percent gave no response.

Commissioned by New Zealand’s largest medicinal cannabis company, Helius Therapeutics, the latest Horizon Research survey marks the seventh in a series of comprehensive surveys tracking nationwide opinion on cannabis law reform.

“For nearly two years we’ve tracked public opinion, and this is an incredible result given early voting starts in just over four weeks.  It’s increasingly clear that it will come down to voter registration and election turnout, particularly if younger adults lift their intention to vote,” says Paul Manning, Chief Executive of Helius Therapeutics.

For the third time running, survey respondents were forced to take a position to better emulate the stark yes/no choice people will have when they vote. The referendum options and the information provided to respondents were the Electoral Commissions.

When respondents were initially given an ‘I’m not sure’ option, 12 percent chose it, 44 percent supported the bill and 41 percent opposed it, with males more strongly supportive. This shows that when later forced to take a yes/no position, of those unsure, slightly more opted for no.

Survey respondents were also asked if they were both registered to vote and 100% likely to vote. From those that were, 48.4 percent supported the bill and 50.8 percent were against, meaning committed voters at the time of the poll would have defeated the bill by a slender majority of around 67,900 votes.

For those who are either not registered or less than 100 percent likely to vote, 53 percent supported the bill, with 45 percent against.

“This could be the closest vote since 1919 when alcohol prohibition was defeated by just 10,362 votes. As this survey shows, cannabis is already widely accessible, and so next month’s decision is fundamentally about who we want to control it: Government or the gangs.

“Wider regulation of cannabis isn’t perfect, but I believe it offers some improvements on the status quo. A regulated environment for cannabis would see the development of locally-owned businesses, delivering jobs and tax revenue for healthcare services – a welcomed addition for New Zealand’s post-COVID economy,” said Manning.