New Zealand Sees Growing Support for Marijuana Reform

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A participant practices rolling a joint at the Cannabis Carnivalus 4/20 event in Seattle
A participant practices rolling a joint at the Cannabis Carnivalus 4/20 event in Seattle, Washington April 20, 2014. Reuters/Jason Redmond

A survey by the Herald's DigiPoll has asked New Zealanders if they supported the legalisation of cannabis or wanted it to remain illegal. New Zealand laws currently consider marijuana possession a crime with a penalty of $500. Violators may also be imprisoned for up to three months.

According to the poll results, majority want to reform cannabis laws to either legalise or decriminalise its use. Cannabis law reform supporters account for 52.4 per cent of the respondents. About 45 per cent want New Zealand to keep cannabis illegal, while 2.6 per cent remain undecided.

According  to reports, the Internet Party is considering support for decriminalisation of cannabis. Party Leader Laila Harre said she is not talking about "legalising" the drug, but members are open to the possibility of decriminalisation as a better option to reduce the use of cannabis.

Harre noted she supports decriminalisation because she believes convicting young New Zealanders for cannabis use every year will not lead to its slowdown. In an interview with TV One, she claimed she's "not pro-drugs in general" but criminalising the use of drugs will not reduce its consumption rate.

Harre, backed by Kim Dotcom who founded the Internet party, referred to other countries which made decriminalisation of cannabis a health issue. She added those countries had more success in bringing down cannabis use.

Reports said the Internet Party has yet to finalise its policy on cannabis decriminalisation. Harre said the members will still discuss technical options. On a global scale, she said decriminalisation is being strongly pushed, but "high political barriers" may continue to block its acceptance in New Zealand.

Labour Leader David Cunliffe does not agree with Harre and said his party will not support decriminalisation of the drug. However, Labour drug and alcohol spokesman Lees-Galloway said there was a "growing mood for reform."

For several years, the New Zealand Greens have expressed support for decriminalising cannabis, but party co-leader Metiria Turei said in January that it was not a priority for the party.

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