New Zealand Cannabis Bill Unveiled Ahead of 2020 Referendum

New Zealand Cannabis Bill Unveiled Ahead of 2020 Referendum

New Zealand Flag

The Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill tells us what we need to know about legal marijuana in New Zealand

Following the release of details about a legal cannabis plan back in May, the New Zealand government has now released the Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill for consultation.

If New Zealanders vote for recreational cannabis legalisation referendum, this bill (or an updated version) will likely become the law. The draft bill shows Kiwis what to expect, and will be updated following discussions amongst the parties and public feedback.

The early transparency here is indeed unique. The government specifies the intention of this release as an attempt to keep the public aware and to receive suggestions. In a press release, Justice Minister Andrew Little reiterated this point, stating that, “It is important that the public feel they can meaningfully participate in the referendum process.”.

The objectives of New Zealand’s cannabis legalisation attempt are to:

  • Minimise cannabis-related harms;
  • Use education and treatment programs to reduce cannabis consumption;
  • Eliminate the black market;
  • Cut down the prison population; and
  • Ensure quality control of marijuana products in the country.
 

What’s in the Cannabis Legalisation and Control bill?

We now know what to expect. For the cannabis user, the Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill, if approved by citizens in the 2020 referendum, will:

  • Legalise recreational cannabis use for those aged 20 years and over.
  • Legalize the purchase of no more than 14 grams of cannabis per day, and cultivation of 2 plants per person.
  • Limit cannabis consumption to private residences and licensed establishments.

The bill will also:

  • Establish the Cannabis Regulatory Authority for industry regulation.
  • Mandate public health and education investments.
  • Restrict advertising.
  • Create licensing scheme for cannabis businesses.

The Cannabis Regulatory Authority will be in charge of all regulatory aspects mentioned above. Perhaps the most interesting is the mandate for public health and education investments, given the rarity of such a clear requirement in many national cannabis bills. This particular provision keeps in line with the government’s objective to reduce marijuana use through treatment and education, and is certainly a welcome addition for all sides.

 

So what’s next for legal cannabis in New Zealand?

Justice Minister Little also told the press that he has invited both parties’ representatives to discuss the bill, and that seems to be the next step. When this happens, all agreements and disagreements will be used to formulate an approach that all sides find suitable. Suggestions will then be taken under advisement for a final bill.

The final draft of the Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill will be released early next year. Then at some point around the election, the referendum will ask citizens whether cannabis should be legalised for recreational use. Here’s how the question/answers for the referendum are currently worded:

Do you support the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill?

  • Yes, I support the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill.
  • No, I do not support the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill.

 

Will the Cannabis Legalisation and Control bill become law?

If New Zealanders vote Yes over 50% of the time, then cannabis will become legal for recreational use via the final version of the Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill. But will Kiwis vote Yes? Only time will tell.

Last year, polls were very favorable for cannabis legalisation. Back then, over 60% of New Zealanders said they would vote Yes to legal recreational cannabis during the 2020 referendum.

 Last year’s polls suggested a landslide in Yes votes to legal cannabis. But recent polls show the opposite.

Last year’s polls suggested a landslide in Yes votes to legal cannabis. But recent polls show the opposite. Source.

However, 2019 brought in a huge wave of No votes. The Yes votes declined significantly, starting with a drop in Yes votes to 52% in April, followed by an even sharper, more alarming drop to only 39% Yes votes in August on two separate polls -- a Horizon Research poll and a 1 NEWS Colmar Brunton poll.

However, the latest 1 NEWS Colmar Brunton poll released last week shows another pendulum swing: the Yes votes have increased four percentage points to 43%, while No votes have dropped to 49%.

  

Final words

The Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill was recently released for consultation. The transparency of the New Zealand government is welcome as we await the 2020 referendum. This latest draft gives an idea of what a legal cannabis New Zealand will look like, and a final version will be released early next year after taking suggestions. 

Although the majority still oppose legalisation, the latest 1 NEWS Comar Brunton poll shows an increase in Yes votes. This muddies the water even further, because you just don’t know what to expect anymore. The seesaw polls present the picture of an undecided nation -- one that you just can’t seem to put your finger on when it comes to cannabis legalisation. 

The only certain answer to the question of whether New Zealand will leagalise cannabis is this: If you want legalisation, the only way to get it is to go out there and vote for it yourself.