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Regular version of the site

Article

Predictors of voter support for the legalization of recreational cannabis use and supply via a national referendum

Wilkins C., J. Tremewan, Rychert M., Atkinson Q., Lavender Forsyth G., Fischer K.

Background

A national referendum to legalise recreational cannabis use and supply in New Zealand via the Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill (CLCB) was recently narrowly defeated. Understanding the underlying factors for this result can inform the cannabis legalisation debate in other countries.

Aims

To investigate predictors of voter support for and opposition to the CLCB.

Method

A representative population panel of 1,022 people completed an online survey of intended voting on the CLCB referendum, which included questions on demographics, drug use history, medicinal cannabis, perceptions of the health risk and moral views of cannabis use, political affiliation, religiosity, community size and reading of the CLCB. Regression models were developed to predict support for the CLCB, with additional predictor variables added over successive iterations.

Results

The most robust predictors of support for the CLCB were use of and policy support for medicinal cannabis use, voting for a left-wing political party, having a positive moral view of cannabis use, living in a small town and having read the CLCB. Predictors of opposing the CLCB were voting for right-wing parties, considering “frequent” cannabis use to be a high health risk, and lifetime use of other drugs. Age, ethnicity, education, employment status, religiosity and lifetime cannabis use were not significant predictors after controlling for other variables.

Conclusions

Support for cannabis legalization was not based on broad demographics, but rather specific views concerning the medicinal benefit, morality of cannabis use, health risk of frequent cannabis use, political party affiliation, and knowledge of the proposed regulatory controls of the CLCB. The influence of moral views of cannabis use on voting behaviour suggest the need to debate the right to use cannabis. The importance of knowledge of the proposed regulatory controls of the CLCB on voting underlines the need to raise awareness of proposed regulatory controls during debate.