Complaints pile up following Drug Foundation's 'vote yes' to cannabis campaign

Complaints are piling up over a brand new pro-cannabis campaign funded by the Drug Foundation.

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The NZ Drug Foundation ad calls on Kiwis to vote yes on legalising cannabis in September. Source: 1 NEWS

Launched on multiple platforms a week ago, it calls on New Zealanders to vote yes to legalising cannabis at a referendum in September.

However, critics say the advertisement is inaccurate and possibly misleading.

It’s the first step in a battle the Drug Foundation is desperate to win, but one of the claims in the new ad has hit a sour note with some close observers.

The ad claims that people who could benefit from medicinal cannabis could get much better access.

Dr Kate Baddock, chairwoman of the New Zealand Medical Association, has called the claims “rubbish”.

“It’s a completely misleading statement,” she told 1 NEWS.

Bill Hodge, an Auckland University law professor, agrees.

“This new proposal on which we're having the referendum has nothing to do with medicinal cannabis and I don’t think the ad should have that reference,” he says.

That’s because medicinal cannabis is already legal and has been prescribed in New Zealand since April.

The Drug Foundation says it’s mentioned in the ad because patient access is still an issue.

“They're still having to go to criminal black market to access their products. Legal regulation that would come through the referendum will provide access for patients to high quality products,” says Ross Bell, Drug Foundation executive director.

“These are very intelligent people and they must have made a decision to selling their view, and I hate to say it but it's on the edge of misleading and deceptive,” Mr Hodge says.

The Ministry of Health funds more than 80 per cent of the foundation’s income through five current contracts.

It’s satisfied that no public money has gone into the campaign.

But some are questioning whether the close link gives a perception the Government agrees with its position.

“It does raise the question of how it is perceived by the public at large,” says Ms Baddock.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) says its received more than 30 complaints so far about the campaign. However, it's not revealing specific details about the complaints, but instead referred 1 NEWS to rules relating to truthful presentation and advocacy.

“We will respond to those complaints to the ASA. We're confident we're going to pass,” says Mr Bell.