Cannabis: More middle-aged Kiwis opposed to legalisation than in favour - survey

Middle-aged Kiwis are more likely to oppose cannabis legalisation than be in favour of it, a study from the University of Otago shows.

With the cannabis legalisation referendum coming up at September's election, there's interest in finding out which way Kiwis swing on the issue.

The University of Otago Christchurch Health and Development Study (CHDS) surveyed 900 40-year-old New Zealanders and found 49.8 percent of participants opposed legalisation, while only 26.8 percent were in favour. The rest were neutral. CHDS has been following the lives of 1000 Cantabrians born in 1977.

The interviews were done in 2017 and 2018, before the referendum and any detail on it was announced.

Women and those with dependents were more likely to oppose, while Kiwis who had used cannabis or other drugs before, a history of depression, Maori ancestry, parental drug use and higher education attainment were in favour.

A vast majority (90 percent) want cannabis to remain illegal for those under 18, 70 percent believe it should be illegal for private individuals to sell the drug and 54.4 percent believe cannabis is harmful.

On the issue of decriminalisation - where the drug isn't sold legally but those caught are not prosecuted - 47.8 percent are in support, 27.2 percent oppose and the rest are neutral. 

More than 80 percent of those middle-aged Kiwis surveyed agree or strongly agree that doctors should be able to prescribe medicinal cannabis and that the drug was an effective form of chronic pain relief.

Christchurch Health and Development Study director Prof Joe Boden said the study was an "ideal way" to gauge the attitudes of Kiwis towards cannabis.

"We have extensive knowledge about this group's cannabis use and, as a group, they have reported relatively high levels of cannabis use. But these results show their attitude to cannabis and cannabis legalisation can best be described as 'conservative'," he said in a statement.

This could be because many of those surveyed have children at home.

Detail about what Kiwis will be voting on were released earlier this year. The proposed Bill people will be voting on would allow someone aged over 20 to buy up to 14 grams of dried cannabis or its equivalent per day from licensed outlets. Individuals can grow up to two plants, with a maximum of four per household. The cannabis can be consumed on private or licenced property.

The intention of the Bill includes to eliminate the illegal supply of the drug while raising awareness of the health risks associated with it.