Increasing numbers of Kiwis are seeking out information on cannabis as a result of the proposed changes to legislation according to new data.
In less than eight weeks, New Zealanders will vote in a non-binding referendum, on the question of whether to legalise the sale, use, possession and production of cannabis - held at the same time as the 2020 general election.
According to data obtained from Google, local interest in cannabis-related information has increased over 160% in the past three weeks alone, with national interest strongest in the Gisborne, West Coast, Tasman and Northland regions.
The data also shows trending searches related to “cannabis legislation NZ” are up 200%.
Nabhik Gupta, spokesperson for NZ owned Shosha, the country’s largest retailer of its kind, says more needs to be done to ensure the proposed legislative changes are understood by younger voters.
He says according to latest Electoral Commission figures, a 24-year-old New Zealander is 34% less likely to be enrolled to vote in the September election than a 55-year-old.
“One of the realities of the format of the general election is that it is essentially a legacy paper-based model which doesn’t cater well for a digital generation.
“The primary method of proactively communicating referendum information is through a physical brochure in the letterbox which also directs them to complete an enrolment form - in today’s paperless environment this is one of the few times this age group will encounter a document in this format.
“When you couple that with a historically low level of turn out for younger voters at the polling booth, you have the potential for the views of a significant proportion of the population to be underrepresented, and more needs to be done to encourage this demographic to have their say,” he says.
Gupta says the establishment of a cannabis industry presents a number of potential financial benefits to the for New Zealand and may assist with our post-COVID economic recovery.
“New Zealand has an international reputation for growing some of the world’s best cannabis.
“Leveraging that expertise could see the development of an export industry worth hundreds of millions of dollars of much-needed revenue and increased employment for the country,” he says.
 Google search data as at 22 July 2020. Accessible here.
 Electoral Commission data as at 22 July 2020. Accessible here.