New Zealand researchers have found safety would be the main factor in persuading people to switch to lawful sources of cannabis if it was legalised in the country.

In the University of Otago study, published in Preventive Medicine Reports, 529 students completed a survey to identify the factors that could tip them in favour of legalised recreational cannabis.

University of Otago Associate Professor Kirsten Robertson

Just over 63% of respondents named safety as a primary reason to source cannabis through legal channels, stating they would feel safer knowing it had to reach a quality threshold. 

Other reasons for switching to legal sources included price (42.7%), no risk of convictions (35.3%), increased accessibility (32.3%) and product diversity (14.2%).

The main barrier preventing participants switching to a legal source was price (66.4%), followed by judgement (36%), regulation (28.9%), loyalty to current supplier (27.2%) and reduced accessibility (13.2%).

Co-author Associate Professor Kirsten Robertson said: “If and when New Zealand does consider legalising cannabis, policy needs to be informed by research.”

She added: “As a barrier to switching was the perceived lack of anonymity of licit markets, a legal market structure offering anonymity and limiting surveillance and record keeping may compete more effectively with the illicit market.”

The study follows the 2020 referendum in New Zealand that saw 48.4% vote in favour of legalising cannabis and 50.7% vote against. 

One of the debates leading up to the referendum was whether lawful cannabis markets can reduce illicit markets, which have remained competitive in places where cannabis has been legalised.

Hannah Adler

Hannah is a communications professional and early-career researcher in the disciplines of health communication and health sociology. She is a PhD student at Griffith University currently writing a...