A growing majority of New Zealanders support legalising cannabis for personal use, according to a new poll just three months from a national referendum.

Licensed medicinal cannabis company Helius Therapeutics commissioned the independent Horizon Research survey of nearly 1600 Kiwis. It found 56 per cent of respondents plan to vote for legalising cannabis for personal use on September 19.

Support for legalising pot continues to grow after the last Horizon poll in February registered 54 per cent support for the bill.

The poll also found women, at 59 per cent, favoured legalisation more than men, at 52 per cent.

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The survey asked respondents if they would vote yes for the Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill in a non-binding referendum, which will be held on at the same time as the national election.

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Helius Therapeutics chief executive Paul Manning said the poll spoke to an evenly divided country on the issue.

"This result will energise both the yes and no camps. It shows just how close the vote will be."

Support for legalising cannabis also contrasted sharply according to political allegiance with National voters by far the least in favour, at just 31 per cent.

Helius Therapeutics executive director Paul Manning.
Helius Therapeutics executive director Paul Manning.

Green voters were the most in favour of the bill with 81 per cent support.

Notably, New Zealand First voters have now shifted to support reform - 53 per cent are in favour.

Seventy per cent of Act voters now plan to tick yes at the referendum - up significantly from 45 per cent in February.

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And 72 per cent of Labour voters support the bill.

The age group most in favour of legalising cannabis was 25-34 years at 72 per cent.

The least in favour were those over 75 years of whom only 27 per cent supported the bill.

Green Party list MP Chloe Swarbrick has been a vocal campaigner for the Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Green Party list MP Chloe Swarbrick has been a vocal campaigner for the Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill. Photo / Mark Mitchell

The June poll continues a trend among the Helius cannabis surveys, which have found increasing support cannabis legalisation since August last year, when only 39 per cent of Kiwis were in favour.

However, a November 2018 Helius cannabis survey registered the highest support for legalising cannabis for personal use at 60 per cent.

Support for legalising pot continues to grow after the last similar poll in February registered 54 per cent support for the Bill. Photo / File
Support for legalising pot continues to grow after the last similar poll in February registered 54 per cent support for the Bill. Photo / File

Green MP Chloe Swarbrick - a vocal campaigner for cannabis regulation to reduce harm - said attitudes towards cannabis legalisation among the public and parliamentarians had come a long way, as evidenced by the recent Horizon poll.

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"New Zealanders realise that their yes vote means better community wellbeing, sensible regulation and reduced harm for a substance that is abundantly available under prohibition," Swarbrick said.

"It's become evident that those campaigning for maintaining criminal prohibition are more focused on moralising than actually solving any problems.

"Evidence is evidence. The evidence shows and the experts agree that the Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill will increase community wellbeing and reduce harm."

The referendum at the 2020 election will ask about support for a bill that would include:

• Allowing products to be bought only in licensed premises from a licensed and registered retailer, and banning online or remote sales,

• Banning the use of cannabis publicly, allowing it only in special, licensed premises or on private property,

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• Controlling the potency of cannabis in available products,

• Introducing a legal purchase age of 20, and

• Banning advertising of cannabis products, and requiring products to carry health messages.

Respondents to the latest survey came from Horizon's nationwide research panels and represent the adult population of the 2018 Census with results weighted by factors including age, gender, income and party voted for at the last election. The maximum margin of error is 2.9 per cent.

The online survey was conducted between June 10 to 14 and questioned 1593 adults.