Some 80% of its population uses it, including Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, although it is illegal. But New Zealand could say no to legalizing recreational cannabis in the October 17 general election. Two major opinion polls show support is waning for a non-binding referendum to end the ban. Why would a country where “weed” is widely used refuse the opportunity to recognize its ubiquity and reject laws that turn users into criminals? In public discussions and debates, the focus seems to be on the next generation.
1. What is the proposal?
From the age of 20, a person would be allowed to buy up to 14 grams (about half an ounce) of dried cannabis per day from authorized outlets and grow two plants at home (with a limit of four plants). per household). There would be stores selling jar of different varieties and strengths, and possibly other products such as edibles, but not gummy bears or anything that looks like children’s candy. Smoking or vaping in public spaces or buildings would be prohibited, except in specially approved cafes. Advertising of cannabis products would be prohibited.Medicinal cannabis, which requires a medical prescription, has already been legalized in New Zealand.
2. And the arguments?
Supporters say the change would reduce the damage done by cannabis by eliminating illegal gang supply, regulating its quality and safety, and blocking access to those under 20. It would raise awareness of health risks, including requiring warning labels. They also say that Indigenous Maori are disproportionately criminalized by the cannabis ban, as they are three times more likely to be arrested and convicted of drug possession than non-Maori.Opponents say cannabis is a serious drug that harms mental health, especially in adolescents, and its legalization will send a message to children that all is well. In the raceUntil election, this has emerged as a reason many parents use to vote no when they themselves have smoked pot.
3. Are all kiwi fruit pot heads?
The cannabis plant grows readily in New Zealand, particularly in the subtropical far north, and the drug has long been readily available on the black market. Marijuana – the dried leaves and flowers of the plant – is themost common form (there is also hashish and hash oil). The Drug Foundation, which supports legalization, says 80% of New Zealanders have tried the drug by the age of 20 and 12% have used it in the past year. These figures suggest that kiwis are among the heaviest users in the world. Only 36% of Australians try weed in their lifetime and 11.6% at least once a year, according to a government report in 2019. In Canada, regular cannabis use among those aged 15 and over is increased from 14.9% to 16.8% after its legalization. in 2018, a government study found. He said almost half of Canadians have used it at some point.
4. What are politicians saying?
Ardern, 40, was questioned during a political debate whether she had ever used cannabis. “Yes I did, a long time ago,” she replied. But the Prime Minister refuses to say how she will vote in the referendum, perhaps wary of alienating a good part of the voters. Opposition Leader Judith Collins, 61, says she has never used a pot and will vote no in the referendum over concerns about its impact on the mental health of young people. Although the referendum is not binding, the next government will find it difficult to ignore it. The result will be published two weeks after the election.
5. What do the polls say?
Support has waned, according to New Zealand’s two largest television news broadcasters. TVNZ in September found that only 35% were in favor, down from 40% in June, while Newshub was 38% yes. But two subsequent surveys suggest a tighter race. A UMR poll released on October 6 said 49% would vote yes and 45% no. A Horizon Research poll released on October 7 gathered 52% of respondents in favor, but said it was stilltoo close to call. The problem for the pro-legalization camp is that its support is strongest among young people who are less likely to vote.
6. What else is on the ballot?
New Zealanders will also vote on whether to legalize euthanasia, and it looks certain to pass, with support over 60% in the latest poll. The libertarian ACT party defended this change.
7. What about the election itself?
It looks like a slam-dunk for Ardern. His Labor Party got 47% support in the latest poll, while the National Opposition Party was at 32%. Labor’s ally, the Green Party – which pushes for a yes to cannabis – was at 6%, giving the couple a comfortable majority over National and its ally ACT, which was 8%. New Zealand’s largest populist party, currently in coalition with Labor, seems to be heading towards political oblivion. He only got 2% support in the poll, well below the 5% he needs to return to parliament.
The reference shelf
- The New Zealand governmentofficial guide to the referendum.
- Websites for“Vote yes” and the camp “Say no to dope ‘camp.
- Bloomberg Businessweekportrays Jacinda Ardern before the election.
- Intelligence Bloombergexamines New Zealand’s path to post-pandemic economic recovery, and Bloomberg Opinion’s Cass Sunstein writes on New Zealand “well-being budget.