Huge support for medical use of cannabis by all party’s voters

In July and August 2016 Curia did some polling for the NZ Drug Foundation to establish views of New Zealanders on a number of scenarios relating to cannabis, ranging from commercial sale of cannabis, personal growth or use and growing or using for medical reasons such as pain alleviation or terminal illness.

The specific questions for the medical use was:

  • Growing and/or using cannabis for any medical reasons such as to alleviate pain
  • Growing and/or using cannabis for medical reasons if you have a terminal illness

They were asked in this situation whether such an activity should be legal, illegal or decriminalised (an offence but only punishable by fine).

The topline findings were:

  • Pain relief – 63% legal, 16% decriminalised, 16% illegal.
  • Terminal illness – 66% legal, 16% decriminalised, 15% illegal.

This is massive support. Around four out of every five voters wants there to be no criminal sanction for the medical use of cannabis. Only one in six think it should be illegal, as the law currently stands. Note this is about cannabis itself, not medical drugs based on cannabis. It was specifically on whether using or growing for medical reasons should be legal.

What was also fascinating was how even this support was across all party’s supporters. The percentage who favoured it being either legal or decrimalised was:

  • National supporters 75% (pain relief) and 77% (terminal illness)
  • Labour supporters 85% and 87%
  • Maori Party supporters 82% and 90%
  • NZ First supporters 78% and 79%
  • Green Party supporters 92% and 93%
  • Swinging voters 78% and 81%

As people will know a bill making it legal to possess or grow cannabis for medical reasons has been drawn out of the ballot and will be voted on in this Parliament or the next one.

I really really hope as many MPs as possible vote for it at first reading. A select committee is the ideal place to work out details such as how best to make cannabis available to people suffering from terrible pain (do you allow them to grow their own, or do you have some sort of shop they can buy it from). But voting against the bill even going to select committee would be massively tone deaf to the vast majority of New Zealanders who don’t want terminally ill New Zealanders to be forced to become criminals in order to have effective pain relief.

Perfect is the enemy of good. No members’ bill is perfect, but unless the bill is fatally flawed, it should proceed to a select committee where expert advice can be submitted on how best to have a regime where those in pain can legally get effective relief, but also minimising the ability of people to game the system.

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