A poll commissioned by pro-legalisation campaigners suggests that the referendum could yet go their way.
For many observers, the chances of cannabis being legalised after the election were already being written off. But a new poll has gone against the trend of recent surveying, showing the Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill remains on track to pass.
The UMR research – an online survey of 1,129 people aged 18 years and over – shows 49% support for the bill, with 45% against. Of the undecideds, a further 2% leaned towards voting in favour of the bill when pushed, while another 2% go the other way.
It suggests a neck and neck race, in marked contrast with the most recent Colmar Brunton poll. That survey, released by TVNZ just over a week ago, had only 35% in favour, with 53% opposed. It also continued a steady downward trend: June’s Colmar Brunton poll had 40% support, with 39% in February.
The latest poll was commissioned by two groups actively campaigning for a change in the law: The Helen Clark Foundation and the Drug Foundation.
Clark recently said she had wanted to legalise cannabis while prime minister, but couldn’t because of a coalition agreement with the United Future party. Now, she’s part of a 60-strong group coming out in favour of a “yes” vote this month.
“We’ve got the opportunity to clean this up, get the law right, stop unnecessarily wasting hundreds of millions of dollars a year on the whole prosecution and court and apprehension process, and prison sentences as well – and also get a decent tax take and some legal jobs off it,” she told Newshub. “On balance, this is the right way to go.”
During a recent panel discussion, Clark called decriminalisation of cannabis an “unsatisfactory halfway house” and said that legalising the drug would bring profits from it into the legal economy.
The Drug Foundation has also been vocal in pushing for Kiwis to vote yes in the referendum. Despite this latest poll result, the foundation’s director Ross Bell wasn’t celebrating.
“Polls are uncertain – they certainly have proven to be a poor predictor of recent referendums overseas. The only certain thing is people talking to their family and friends about why a yes vote is important, helping check voters are enrolled and getting out and voting,” he said in a statement.
The prime minister Jacinda Ardern has yet to lay her cards on the table and publicly state how she’ll vote.
Last month, she said the referendum was a conscience vote for Labour MPs. “The view of the public around me is equivalent therefore to mine.”
However, Ardern has stated her support for the End of Life Choice Bill, which is also facing a public vote. She defended this decision by saying that this bill was not always going to be put to the public. “[In parliament] we were all voting on the actual bill itself and whether or not that would become law. I was very open then about my voting in parliament. It was then decided that it would become a referendum,” she said.
By contrast, National’s Judith Collins has been clear: she told media she voted against the cannabis bill when casting her advance vote this week, and had previously instructed her MPs to vote against it, too.