It is up to the public, not politicians, to decide whether cannabis should be decriminalised, Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters says.

"I'm pro the public making this decision, in a referendum, and not politicians," Peters said today.

"They won't get it as wrong as politicians will," he told Newstalk ZB's Mike Hosking.

He didn't dispute that the decriminalisation of cannabis use led to health issues and other problems but said that banning the use of cannabis brought its own issues.


"What other problems are we getting as a consequence of people being banned and a lot of other extraneous events happening but nevertheless which impinge upon people's lives, and the whole thing's a bit of a disaster."

Peters told TVNZ's Breakfast programme cannabis had some "superb" medical benefits.

"It's a more complex issue than people think. People are being called criminals as a consequence of taking for medicinal purposes and other purposes."

A poll commissioned by the New Zealand Drug Foundation has found public support for cannabis law reform has soared in the past year, especially for medicinal use of cannabis.

Support for personal possession and growing has increased too but there is no great appetite to commercialise cannabis by selling it from stores.

Advocates of cannabis reform say the results show the laws are now out of touch with public opinion.

And they say the poll should give MPs heart as they consider a bill before the health committee to allow medicinal cannabis for pain relief in terminal conditions.

Separately the Government is planning a referendum on personal use before or at the next election.


Justice Minister Andrew Little, who is responsible for the cannabis referendum, told the Herald consultations among Labour, New Zealand First and the Greens were underway about the referendum and its wording and he expected to take a paper to the Cabinet in two to three months.