9th March 2021
By Roland Sebestyén
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Months after the country chose to pass up the legalisation of recreational cannabis, a new poll has shown that the majority of voters would be in favour of decriminalising the drug.

While PM Jacinda Ardern pledged to adhere to the public’s decision, no matter what the outcome of the referendum, many sustain that the close result backs the need for some form of policy change.

The results of the referendum, which took place alongside the election in November 2020, showed that 48.4% of the public supported the legalisation of recreational cannabis, while 50.7% opposed it. New Zealand campaigners have now changed tactic to advocate for the decriminalisation of the drug.

Furthermore, A new poll published by UMR found that 69% of the public would “support full legalisation or decriminalisation in the country. Almost half (49%) revealed that they would support legalisation.

With full legalisation, people would be able to purchase the drug in licenced stores or cultivate it for personal use. Decriminalisation, however, as Stuff points out, would only remove the criminal penalty, meaning that fines and other civil deterrents, as well as redirection to treatment services, would replace criminal charges.

The poll also found that 20% of those who voted against cannabis legalisation would’ve voted for decriminalisation. Further, support for some sort of change in the country’s drug policy is very high among the governing Labour Party and the Green Party voters – 93% and 81%, respectively.

However, neither the government nor the Green Party, which pushed for a cannabis referendum, would back another public vote on the drug.

Stuff revealed that according to their sources, the Greens won’t be leading a campaign to reform the country’s drug policy during this term.

Then-Justice Minister Andrew Little said the results showed the electorate was uncomfortable with further liberalisation.

“The electorate has spoken, they are uncomfortable with greater legalisation, and I would interpret it as [also] decriminalisation of recreational cannabis.”

Also, the prime minister, who revealed that she had voted for legalisation has since revealed that the government’s drug reforms following the vote would not include decriminalisation.

After the publication of the official results, Ms Ardern said: “When it comes to a referendum, a majority is a majority, and so it hasn’t tipped the balance in terms of what we as a Government will do.

“We gave our commitment to New Zealanders if it won the majority, we would progress legislation; if it didn’t, we wouldn’t.

“Ultimately, New Zealanders have made up their own minds, they’ve expressed their own personal opinion, and that, ultimately, is something that I set out right from the very beginning for New Zealand to decide, and they have.”

Stuff reports that while the Greens try to distance themselves from the topic, they want the Māori Party to take on the government about its cannabis policy. Statistics show that Māori people have, historically, been “disproportionately charged for cannabis-related offences.”

In the 2020 general election, the Māori Party, which previously openly supported decriminalising cannabis use, won two seats.

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