A charitable trust fronting the fight to legalise recreational cannabis in New Zealand has appealed to the global cannabis community to help fund the campaign after insisting a victory in NZ would be a victory for the entire industry.

The New Zealand Drug Foundation used a virtual conference to appeal for US$1m in a bid to defeat no vote lobbyists in September’s historic referendum.

New Zealand will be the first country in the world to take the debate over recreational cannabis to the people.

Addressing a conference organised by Prohibition Partners, NZ Drug Foundation executive director Ross Bell predicted a yes vote would “supercharge the global cannabis movement”.

The NZ Drug Foundation will need US$1m over the next three months to fund a multiplatform ‘yes’ campaign

“This is not just a NZ campaign, this is a campaign for the world,” he told delegates watching online.  

“This is not just a NZ referendum, this is a referendum for the world.

“If we win it will supercharge the global movement. It will send a signal to other politicians in the US and Australia, and elsewhere, that if NZ can do it, we can do it as well.”

But he warned that defeat on September 19 would damage efforts around the world to legalise the drug.  

“There’s only a small handful of countries who are even having these conversations… so the whole global movement around legalisation is still pretty fragile,” Bell said.

If we win, this will supercharge the global movement

NZ DRUG foundation executive director ross bell

“A loss in NZ would send a really clear message to NZ politicians not to touch cannabis. A no vote means keep away from cannabis for a long time to come. That is why we are saying this is a once in a generation opportunity.”

He added: “You know what politicians are like. As soon as they pick up a message from the public they are going to steer clear. If we vote no, the world will notice.”

The yes vote campaign, which carries the strapline ‘On our terms’, will cost $350,000 each month for the next three months, he said. Without it, the campaign will flounder.

Ross Bell - Cannabis News Australia - Cannabiz
NZ Drug Foundation’s Ross Bell

“We don’t have that money. If we don’t get something like that then we can’t put up this campaign, we can’t compete with the opposition and we can’t compete with the negative publicity that we are getting from mainstream media.

“I am really hoping there are people here today who are interested in reform. You are not getting a return, you are not buying shares… you are donating to a cause that is the right one.”

Bell said the campaign is not looking to change the minds of no voters, or to argue with anti-cannabis campaigners, but to convince undecided New Zealanders of the positives of legalising adult use.

Those benefits include improved access for patients looking for medicinal cannabis and the tax revenue that will be generated for other crucial projects. In addition, legalising recreational cannabis will free up the police to focus on serious crime rather than getting bogged down with petty and time-consuming cannabis offences.

Bell also downplayed fears that legalising cannabis will result in a free for all. Anyone aged under 20 will be prohibited from buying cannabis while no advertising will be permitted. Firms will also be banned from selling cannabis products deemed attractive to children.