A new poll reveals a large majority of New Zealanders would support legalising recreational cannabis use in the Government's 2020 referendum.
The independent survey of nearly 1000 people, conducted by Horizon Research, surveyed Kiwis on their attitudes towards cannabis, law reform, and its use.
It shows 60 percent of adults would vote to support legalising cannabis for personal use in a referendum, with 24 percent against. Just 16 percent had no opinion.
The survey also reveals that 55 percent of adult New Zealanders have used cannabis at some time during their lives, while 10 percent said they use cannabis daily - or around 340,000 Kiwis.
Green Party supporters were most in favour, with 84 percent saying they would vote yes. National supporters were least likely to support it, with just 33 percent support.
Surprisingly, more people between 25-34 would vote yes than people aged between 18-24. At the other end of the age scale, more people over 75 would vote yes than people between 65-74.
New Zealand's largest licensed medicinal cannabis company, Helius Therapeutics, which commissioned the poll, says it will be encouraging for the many New Zealanders who support the liberalisation of recreational cannabis use.
"From this survey, it appears a majority of New Zealanders will vote yes at the 2020 referendum," says executive director Paul Manning.
"It's also encouraging for us to see an overwhelming 81 percent 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."
The poll had a maximum margin of error of +/- 3.1 percent at a 95 percent confidence level.
Today, the Farm Bill was signed into law, officially legalising hemp in the United States for the first time in over 40 years. Under the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, as it's officially called, states can now start to produce hemp and hemp-derived products, with supervision by the Department of Agriculture.
State applicants, who submit plans to their respective secretaries of agriculture, in coordination with their governors and federal agriculture administrators, would need to include their methods for tracking land use for hemp production and ensure that their crop contains less than .3 percent THC. Under the new law, states would not be allowed to ban the transportation of hemp products within their jurisdictions, however production and sales would only be allowed in states that have approved programs.
In addition, the Farm Bill includes a number of provisions for research on hemp and hemp cultivation. What's more, CBD derived from hemp would be left out of the Controlled Substances Act in states with approved hemp programs — however, CBD will remain a Schedule 1 prohibited substance at the federal level. The new law also has no impact on the FDA's ban on CBD products, or whether it will regulate them in the future.
Even so, the cannabis industry applauds the Farm Bill's passage as a positive step in the right direction. "It's a monumental piece of legislation that will open the doors to a huge amount of research into the plant's uses and will really catapult the U.S. as a world leader in hemp production," Joanna Hossack - an attorney with Los Angeles cannabis law firm Clark Neubert LLP says. "It's also important in reducing stigma around the plant generally. Obviously hemp legalisation doesn't lift the major barriers facing the cannabis market, so our work definitely isn't done. But today is an important day."
According to Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association, the Farm bill is a "concrete sign that 'reefer madness,' which first led to [hemp's] criminalisation is finally coming to an end." Many in the industry now hope and predict that this may be the first domino to fall in freeing the cannabis plant, altogether.
The farm bill will cost roughly $400 billion over five years or $867 billion over 10 years.
The change sets the stage for greater expansion in an industry already seeing explosive growth because of growing demand for cannabidiol, or CBD, a non-psychoactive compound found in hemp that many see as a way to better health.
Federal legalisation could triple the overall hemp market to $2.5 billion by 2022, with $1.3 billion of those sales from hemp-derived CBD products, according to New Frontier Data, a cannabis market research firm.
Justice Minister Andrew Little has confirmed that the referendum on recreational cannabis use will be at the 2020 election and will be binding.
He said the question to be asked still needed to be worked out.
A referendum on recreational cannabis use on or before the 2020 election is part of the Labour and Greens confidence and supply agreement.
Speaking to media this morning, Little said this morning that Cabinet has agreed the referendum will be held in the 2020 election and it would be binding.
"There is a bit of detail still to work through, but we are telling the electoral commission that's when it's going to be."
He said Cabinet made the decision it would not use a citizens assembly process for policy development.
This is largely because the decision is quite late in the process, Little said.
"So we won't be using that mechanism in terms of public engagement, we will have other ways of getting the public debate going."
Asked about a binding referendum on euthanasia, Little said that was a matter for Act Leader David Seymour and the select committee that is considering the euthanasia bill.
Seymour has a members bill on euthanasia currently going through the house.
"David has told me that he fully expects that there will be a referendum clause in that bill when it gets reported back."
Little said the Government is expecting there to be a referendum question on Seymour's legislation as well.
National Leader Simon Bridges suggested that the Government was attempting to distract from the general election itself, but said he didn't have a problem with the referendum being binding.
"I'm pretty cynical that you've got a Government here that wants to distract from the core issues of a general election," Bridges said.
He suspected two other discussed referendums would also be included on euthanasia and electoral reform, although Little has talked down those prospects.
Bridges would be voting against cannabis legalisation and said he hadn't smoked marijuana at any point in his life.
The first ever advertising campaign from a licensed New Zealand cannabis company has launched with the intention to rebrand cannabis, following legislation passing in Parliament last week.
Helius Therapeutics is now running billboards throughout New Zealand’s main centres with nationwide newspaper advertisements scheduled in the New Year.
Paul Manning, Executive Director of Helius Therapeutics, says the campaign is designed to shine a light on cannabis as a medicine, encourage education and awareness, and show that it is supported by people of all walks of life, who New Zealanders can identify with.
Under the headline ‘Cannabis is medicine’ the campaign features eight real Kiwis who are a cross-section of patients, advocates, entrepreneurs, and parents.
“These eight New Zealanders passionately support medicinal cannabis and each have their own story to tell. The truth is, it will be everyday people who use medicinal cannabis, which will soon become a very mainstream product.
“Our current focus is on research and developing cannabis therapeutics. We have no products to sell right now, but it is our responsibility to use the resources we have to provide education. Cannabis needs a rebrand. Despite over 80% of Kiwis supporting widespread access to cannabis for medicinal purposes, we still have a job to do when it comes to addressing stigma,” says Mr Manning.
The campaign officially launched on Monday morning with the switching on of central Auckland’s largest digital billboard on the corner of Anzac Avenue and Beach Road, along with many other sites across the country.
It follows the Government passing The Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Amendment Bill last week, 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. The company’s licensed ‘New Zealand Grown’ medicinal cannabis products are expected to be available to patients by 2020.
With the country’s regulatory environment changing, Helius is now moving ahead to research and develop new cannabis-based therapeutics. As New Zealand’s largest licensed medicinal cannabis company, it is determined to set the standard for effective and accessible medicinal cannabis products, both here and overseas.
Mr Manning says the voices of mainstream New Zealanders will again need to be heard in the New Year with the Ministry of Health set to release a consultation paper, asking for public input on the design of the medicinal cannabis regulations.
“Just like the passionate Kiwis in our campaign, we will again need people to have their say in the coming months on the pending regulations and scheme for medicinal cannabis. The bill may have passed but the process is by no means over, with the manual now to be written,” he says.
Faces of the campaign:
“This campaign honours those New Zealanders who have been prepared to stand up for medicinal cannabis access. These people, and thousands of others, are courageous enough to share their stories.
“Medicinal cannabis is not about people getting high. It’s about people feeling healthier. And we’re hoping our campaign will be a conversation-starter over the holidays,” says Paul Manning.
The Green Party welcome today’s plan to address the synthetic drugs crisis and broader addiction problems in Aotearoa New Zealand.
Police will use their discretion and not prosecute for possession and personal use
"Supporting people into care and recovery will be set down in law as the first measure for Police on the front lines, rather than pushing people with addiction problems down a criminal pathway," Green Party spokesperson on drug law reform Chlöe Swarbrick said.
"This is an evidence-based step to reduce drug harm, drug demand, and drug supply.
"We know that when we take people down the criminal pathway we do nothing to reduce drug use or demand. Instead we increase the harm to those with addiction problems and to communities. We also increase gang control and associated criminality.
"This Government has listened to the evidence and is acting with compassion to create a pathway of care and recovery for people with addiction problems.
"This is a huge step that points the way to a more sensible approach to drug policy than the tough-on-crime rhetoric we have seen fail over many years, all over the world.
"More funding for health responses to drug addiction will mean those directed to therapeutic care will get the support and help they need.
"The Green Party is proud to be part of a Government that is serious about a health-based approach.
"This is rhetoric we’ve heard from all Parties in Parliament and today we’re seeing deeply meaningful action.
"I’d like to thank the Labour and NZ First Parties for working with us to create a society where we walk the talk in treating addiction as the health issue it is, requiring care and recovery not criminalisation".
Parliament passes medicinal cannabis bill, with regulated market promised within a year and a legal defence until then
The Government has passed its medicinal cannabis bill, which will establish a regulated market within a year and give those close to death a legal defence before then.
After a long road to third reading the bill passed on Wednesday afternoon with the support of Labour, the Greens, and NZ First.
Both the Greens and NZ First won some concessions to the bill, which has been criticised by medicinal marijuana advocates for not going far enough - and by National as "decriminalisation by stealth".
The bill sets up a statutory defence which allows those close to death in palliative care to consume illicit marijuana with a legal defence if prosecuted.
This is intended as a bridging mechanism until the full Medicinal Cannabis Scheme is set up, which will make the process much more simple.
The Green Party has pushed for this to happen no later than a year after the law comes into effect in a few days - and for that market to allow native strains of cannabis to be used, not just imported cannabis products.
NZ First won a concession to extend the legal defence to those in palliative care, not just those who were terminally ill and with less than 12 months to live.
Health Minister David Clark that he was "delighted", ahead of passing the bill. The bill gives a legal defence to those close to death to smoke illicit loose-leaf cannabis.
"This is the most progressive legislation on medicinal cannabis that has ever passed through the Parliament," Clark said.
"We're doing things to make sure supply will be more available and more affordable over time, and we're taking a compassionate measure in the meantime to give a defence to those to use illicit cannabis who are in the final stages of life."
Clark said the Ministry of Health would release a paper on the planned medicinal scheme early next year and that would be open to public consultation.
"We think it's important that those who are in the industry, those who are users, those who are consumers of products, and those with a wider interest be able to submit their views as the regulations are established, so that we get the highest quality scheme," Clark said.
"The ministry will develop the quality standards in consultation with experts, and we believe that's the right way of doing things."
The National Party, who voted against the bill, crafted its own medicinal marijuana bill early this year, after voting for the Government bill at first reading.
The National bill, designed by Shane Reti, set out a much more detailed regulatory regime with a photo ID system that would allow patients to buy cannabis products from pharmacists. It would not allow for any loose-leaf smoking.
NATIONAL: DECRIMINALISATION BY STEALTH
National leader Simon Bridges spoke against the bill at third reading, saying it was "decriminalisation by stealth".
"I fear, and there is nothing the Minister has said today that tells me otherwise, that what in fact this bill is is decriminalisation of cannabis by stealth in this Parliament today," Bridges said.
"What will the police do when they're outside a school and someone, under this legislation, is smoking cannabis? What will they do?"
He said National had compassion for those trying to access medicinal marijuana but this bill was not the way to do it.