Support for legal cannabis slips in new poll

As the prospect of legal cannabis gets closer, Kiwis appear to be getting nervous.

A new poll has found the gap between support for legalisation and opposition is narrowing.

In a new poll conducted by Horizon, 52 percent of Kiwis said they'd vote in favour of legalisation in next year's referendum, and 37 percent against.

When Horizon asked the exact same question six months ago, 60 percent were in favour and 24 percent against.

The poll was commissioned by medicinal cannabis company Helius Therapeutics. Chief executive Paul Manning said it might reflect the changing conversation around the popular drug.

"The commentary around cannabis has shifted in recent months. We're now seeing some concerted scaremongering by conservative groups and others about cannabis being legalised for personal use."

Whereas six months ago the airwaves were filled with talk about the benefits of medicinal cannabis.

"What we do know, after commissioning two large surveys on the topic, is that a majority of Kiwis continue to support legalising the personal use of cannabis," said Manning. "There may have been a lot of political noise in recent days, but that statistical fact hasn’t changed in six months."

The poll also found National is the only party whose supporters are opposed to legalisation. Even New Zealand voters back it, 53-40. Green voters are unsurprisingly the most in favour, 83-13.

Despite being a party that argues for personal freedoms, according to the poll only 53 percent of ACT voters back legalisation - though with only 0.5 percent support it's likely that figureis based on very few respondents and perhaps not accurate.

Women appear to be leaning towards legalisation more than men. While support was evenly split in October, the latest poll has 55 percent support from women and 48 percent from men.

The age group most likley to vote in favour are 18-to 34-year-olds. The older you are the less likely you are to support legalisation, with only a quarter of people aged 75 and older in favour.

Only 11 percent of people overall said they're yet to make up their minds, so it looks likely - at this stage at least - New Zealand will vote in favour of legalisation.

But with the referendum non-binding, whether that results in a legal cannabis market remains another matter entirely.

Horizon's poll surveyed 1161 people, weighting the results according to age, gender, education level, personal income, employment status and party of preference. It has a margin of error of 2.9 percent.