Almost all the “No” advertising you’ve seen in the cannabis referendum campaigning comes from one group: SAM NZ.
The alliance takes its name from the controversial American lobby group Smart Approaches to Marijuana, which has long been evasive about who funds its activities.
According to its own media releases, SAM NZ encompasses various conservative groups and individuals. Strikingly, they include two groups which are actually fronts for the Church of Scientology. These groups have a history of gaining access to official drug education programmes to peddle pseudoscience – and to recruit members to their cult.
Printed material from the Scientology groups (which directs readers to Church of Scientology websites) is being distributed alongside fliers from the most prominent SAM NZ affiliate, Say Nope to Dope. Say Nope to Dope is, in turn, the creation of Family First, the conservative religious lobby group that has previously campaigned against marriage equality and women’s fertility rights.
SAM NZ spokesman Aaron Ironside also has a background in fringe religious conservatism. He now runs a counselling business, for which he says he was trained by Nelson-based Living Wisdom – they're the outfit featured in a “2018 TVNZ Sunday programme on "gay conversion” therapy.
Much of SAM NZ’s campaign material is misleading – most notably the infamous “Kia Ora Dopey” newspaper ad, which wildly misrepresented what would be allowed by the Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill.
We urge you to seek information on the bill from reputable sources, including the Public Health Association of New Zealand, the expert panel convened by the Chief Science Advisor, the analysis by the directors of New Zealand’s two largest health and development studies and the official referendum site itself.