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Kiwis support cannabis law change: poll

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 14/08/2016

A majority of New Zealanders support changing the legal status of cannabis, a poll suggests.

The figures show voters are ready for change even if lawmakers aren't, the Drug Foundation's executive director Ross Bell says.

The foundation has surveyed 1029 people - 33 per cent support legalisation, 31 per cent support decriminalisation and 34 per cent oppose any status change.

"I think what's happening is voters have learnt of reforms being tried around the world and see the sky is not falling in, and that some of those alternatives could provide us a way forward," Mr Bell said.

The foundation wants to see criminal penalties removed for use, possession and social supply of the drug, the development of a strictly regulated market and greater resources for prevention, education and treatment for drug users.

But Prime Minister John Key isn't being drawn into soften the laws.

"My personal view, it's my long-held view and I don't think I should necessarily change it, that what is the message that parliament would ultimately be sending those youngsters?" he told TV3's Paul Henry programme.

"We'd be telling the young people of New Zealand that it's OK and I just don't know if we want to."

He said he understood arguments around taxing cannabis and not having the criminal underworld selling it, but he didn't think it would be any different to when legal highs were legal and communities rallied against it.

Family First NZ national director Bob McCoskrie says the poll confirms the public is nowhere near settled on the issue

"Softening the laws around marijuana is the wrong path to go down if we care about public health, public safety and about our young people, and the government should maintain the drug's illegal status," he said in a statement.

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