Ninety per cent of New Zealanders support decriminalisation of medical cannabis, says Drug Foundation

Nearly half of all New Zealanders would support legalising the sale of cannabis, a new poll backed by the Drug Foundation has revealed.

Drug Foundation executive director Ross Bell spoke to TVNZ 1's Breakfast about the poll, which is in its third consecutive year.

The poll is backed by the Drug Foundation, which also found a majority of Kiwis want growing cannabis for personal use decriminalised. Source: Breakfast

"What we've seen over the last three years is that support for cannabis law reform has been increasing over time," Mr Bell said.

"We have two-thirds of New Zealanders would support the decriminalisation or legalisation of cannabis; people would also support it to grow their own; and there's massive support - about 90 per cent of New Zealanders - want cannabis legalised for medical use for people with terminal illness or people who are in pain."

Mr Peters did say, however, the people of New Zealand should make the final decision. Source: Breakfast

Mr Bell said there are issues surrounding its legalisation, however, as "parliament's considering a government bill which doesn't quite do those things around medical cannabis".

"I think the message there to parliamentarians is that the public expect more."

Mr Bell said parliament should "absolutely" make a more comprehensive bill surrounding cannabis for medical use.

"At the moment, the government's bill only provides a defence for the patients with a terminal illness, and that doesn't provide that defence for medical cannabis to other illnesses - people in pain, cancer pain and so on."

He also said the government's punitive approach to recreational cannabis use was not addressing existing concerns surrounding use of the drug.

"Yes, there are real issues around the health harms of cannabis, particularly among young people and people who use cannabis heavily, but we have to remember that that is happening right now under our prohibition and punishment approach.

"New Zealanders still have really high rates of cannabis use, and there are real harms from that. Our current government is not dealing with those harms."

The government has promised to hold a referendum on the matter before the next election.

The Drug Foundation’s Ross Bell spoke to Breakfast about the results today. Source: Breakfast



Most read story: Major New Zealand supermarket chain lowers price of female sanitary products to fight 'period poverty'

Countdown has today announced it is dropping the price of some female sanitary products to fight "period poverty" for low income and disadvantaged Kiwi women.

But they’re warning more needs to be done to fight "period poverty". Source: 1 NEWS

The supermarket chain is reducing the price of 15 of its Homebrand and Select range of tampon and pad products.

Countdown estimates the price drop will save New Zealand customers $750,000 a year, with some of the products dropping by almost 50 per cent in price.

Countdown's general manager of corporate affairs, Kiri Hannifin, said the decision was guided by their belief that access to sanitary products was a necessity.

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For more on this story, watch 1 NEWS at 6pm. Source: 1 NEWS

"Period poverty is a worldwide phenomenon and a reality here in New Zealand. Too many women go without sanitary products themselves so they can provide essentials like food and rent for their family, or for some families it's simply something they can't stretch their budgets to afford for their children," Ms Hannifin said.

It has previously been reported by TVNZ that some families had kept girls home from school as they couldn't afford sanitary products, while others used newspaper or cardboard instead. 

More stories by TVNZ on period poverty

MyCup NZ's community partnership programme is putting an end to period poverty in Northland. Source: 1 NEWS

There are girls here in NZ that charities say are missing school because they can’t afford products they need. Source: Seven Sharp

Pharmac yesterday revealed it had kicked out an application to subsidise women's sanitary products. Source: Breakfast

Manurewa MP and Labour Youth Affairs spokesperson Louisa Wall is backing a project to help struggling Kiwi women afford sanitary items Source: Breakfast

Despite the problems being faced by some New Zealanders, lowering the price on tampons and pads isn't on the government's radar. Source: Seven Sharp

There are girls here in NZ that charities say are missing school because they can’t afford products they need.
Source: Seven Sharp

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Battle on to save 2500-year-old Tāne Mahuta tree as kauri dieback nears

For millennia, the Lord of the Forest has stood unyielding but as a plant-killing disease sweeps New Zealand forests a battle is on to save the nation's most iconic tree.

Standing more than 50 metres tall on a 14-metre wide trunk, Tāne Mahuta has survived for up to 2500 years in the lush Waipoua Forest in the country's north.

Said to sometimes bring visitors to tears, the native kauri tree attracts 200,000 visitors each year.

In part it's this popularity that has brought a fungal disease suffocating the country's kauri to within 60 metres of the ancient tree - and prompted debate about whether enough is being done.

A young tree close by Tāne Mahuta has been confirmed infected with "kauri dieback".

Spread by visitors' shoes and the hooves of pigs, there's no known dieback cure.

Some treatments have successfully slowed progress and scientists are hopeful about others in the works.

While the Department of Conservation (DOC) says there's no evidence Tāne Mahuta is infected (officials argue testing may risk spreading the disease), the iwi (tribe) that guards the land - Te Roroa - this month entered the forest to pray and offer blessings.

"This one tree is an iconic symbol for all of New Zealand," Te Roroa science advisor Taoho Patuawa said.

"We've been watching the steady decline of the health of that forest for a number of years without any action being taken."

He's nevertheless optimistic concerns are now being heard and the legendary tree is still safe.

"We won't see the death of Tāne Mahuta in our time. Tāne Mahuta has been there for 2000-plus years. This is just a little road bump."

The proliferation of dieback has vexed conservationists for decades, but its toll on the remaining kauri forests has become obvious in recent years. It now threatens the species with extinction.

The government last year installed shoe-cleaning stations around a number of sites, including Waipoua. It's also running a pig control program.

But it has stopped short of calling for full closures so far, arguing the human threat to the area is low.

"Every possible option to ensure extensive protection measures around this site of national and cultural significance is being explored," a DOC Northern North Island operations director Sue Reed Thomas said.

But Lincoln University bio-protection researcher Amanda Black is baffled officials won't test Tāne Mahuta and says the site needs to be urgently shut off to give scientists time.

"People are going in there, spraying their feet with a sanitiser but we don't know if it works," she said.

"It's given [DOC] a false sense of security," Dr Black said.

"There's a small window at the moment where science can help, but once we close that you're looking at localised extinction."

If the kauri dieback does reach Tāne Mahuta, researchers say its size would likely mean it would be a matter of years before it succumbed.

Urgent action is being called for over kauri dieback disease in Northland’s Waipoua Forest. Source: 1 NEWS