A University of Otago study has found middle-aged New Zealanders are more likely to oppose the legalisation of cannabis in the lead up to this year’s referendum.
The study, published in this week’s New Zealand Medical Journal from the university’s Christchurch campus, found 49.8 per cent of respondents, all 40 years old, opposed legalising cannabis which would make it more widely available. Meanwhile, 26.8 per cent supported a law change and the remaining were "neutral".
Those who opposed cannabis legalisation were likely to be women with dependents. Groups who were more likely to be in favour were those who had used cannabis or other drugs before, had a history of depression, were Māori or had a higher education level.
Christchurch Health and Development Study director Professor Joe Boden said the study could help predict the outcome of the cannabis referendum.
“It suggests that middle-aged, and older New Zealanders, who are more reliable voters, may be more inclined to be opposed to legalising cannabis,” he said.
“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 people having dependent children is “often predictive” of negative attitudes towards cannabis law change.
The study also found more than 70 per cent of participants said it should remain illegal for private individuals to sell cannabis. Over half believed cannabis was harmful.
There was also greater support for the medicinal use of cannabis, with more than 80 per cent agreeing doctors should be able to prescribe it.
Researchers interviewed almost 900 people, all 40 years old, from a pool of 1000 Cantabrians they had followed since birth.
The Government this month released the draft Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill to be voted on in a non-binding referendum this year.
Voters will be able to vote yes or no based on the draft bill which outlines how cannabis use will be regulated for those over 20, licensing and product requirements and guidelines for a public education programme.