Cannabis is one of the most broadly available illicit drugs in New Zealand. It is so popular that, in 2020, the country will be the first to put the issue to a nationwide vote. Its justice minister, Andrew Little, announced in December 2018, that the referendum on whether recreational cannabis use should be legal will be held during the next national election.
In the city of Wellington, the scenario is no different — public support for legalization is increasing. The drug is widely popular among its citizens; seeing people buying and smoking cannabis in Wellington while walking the streets is certainly a possibility.
Cannabis and the law
Despite its popularity in Wellington, buying cannabis for recreational use is against the law. New Zealand’s Police are committed to reducing the demand for cannabis and disrupting the supply chain, targeting people who grow and supply the drug through aerial searches around the country. The reality, however, is that the police turn a blind eye to small quantities of the drug, since the use of recreational marijuana is extremely common in the country, with some politicians even admitting to its use in their youth.
The penalties for those found associated with cannabis range from a $500 penalty for consumers, to a 14-year jail term for its supply or manufacture. Cultivating the drug can result in a 7-year jail term, or, depending on the amount, an immediate 2-year jail term and/or a $2,000 fine.
For those under and around the age of 17, depending on the case, the penalty ranges from a warning to appearances in Youth Court. However, especially if it is a first offense, it is likely that juveniles will get diversionary decision or judgment. The police claim to avoid a court process, often converting the penalty into a donation and/or attending an approved counselling course.
When will residents be able to legally buy cannabis in Wellington?
The future of recreational cannabis will be in the hands of New Zealand’s citizens. In December 2018, Andrew Little announced an upcoming referendumregarding whether the recreational use of cannabis should be legalized. The announcement came a week after New Zealand’s Parliament approved a law to ease restrictions on medicinal marijuana.
Public opinion in New Zealand has become more supportive of recreational pot use in recent years, though still quite divided. A poll by 1 News, questioning 1,006 eligible voters found that 46 percent of those questioned favored legalizing the drug, while 41 percent were against.
Wellington’s support for legalization is also evident. In fact, just recently, in November 2018, the city hosted The Cannabis Referendum Conference of 2018, an annual gathering organized by the Cannabis Referendum Coalition to debate and plan the legalization of cannabis in the upcoming referendum.
The conference was full of speakers from New Zealand’s Members of Parliament, businessmen, scientists, and cannabis users. It was largely considered to be a success, with politicians and Ministry of Justice officials mingling freely with citizen cannabis smokers.
What about synthetic cannabis?
The so-called synthetic cannabis consists of a smokable plant material with a synthetic cannabinoid added to it. They stimulate the same brain area as cannabis, but they are much riskier.
In the United States, the risks of synthetic cannabis use are widespread. For example, in August 2018, at least 76 people overdosed on the synthetic cannabis at a park alongside the prestigious Yale University.
In New Zealand, synthetic cannabis is illegal as well. The number of deaths due to synthetic cannabis grew from two to 45 in 12 months. The emergency St. John ambulance services notified about 30 call-outs per week relating to synthetic cannabis overdoses. Before 2014, the drug could be very easily and cheaply bought in corner stores.
Information regarding buying cannabis in Wellington
It’s quite easy to buy cannabis in Wellington. If you look around, you’ll probably see people smoking the drug or using something stronger. Such users are unlikely to sell you anything, but you can ask them where they buy — a gram generally costs around $20.
It’s possible to buy cannabis online in Wellington and have it delivered to you. If you do a quick Google search, you will easily find websites that ship marijuana to the city, even though consuming and buying cannabis in Wellington is currently illegal. The scheme seems to be the result of websites overseas – claiming to be based in New Zealand – that can ship seeds directly to your doorstep without authorities finding out. In this case, the seeds actually come from the Netherlands, where the laws are quite different.
Buying medical cannabis
Medical cannabis, on the other hand, cannot be bought on the streets of Wellington. Such a purchase comes with risks of marijuana that has been improperly grown, infused with another drug, or not even authentic. Medical marijuana stems from pure, uncut cannabis plants.
There is a list of matters that are considered when prescribing marijuana, such as it being prescribed by an appropriate specialist. Other requirements include evidence that there will be a close monitoring of the patient by the prescribing authority, as well as evidence that other treatments have been tried without success.
Once you have a prescription, buying cannabis might not be so difficult. This is due to the recent law passed by the New Zealand government, making it widely available for patients. The new legislation will also allow terminal patients to begin smoking cannabis without fear of prosecution before the law has been fully implemented. This new law was made possible after years of campaigns of ill citizens saying the drug is the only thing that eases their pain. The law also paves the way for local companies to fabricate medical cannabis products on local and international market scales, allowing a much broader use of medicinal marijuana as well.
Final words — your ability to buy cannabis in Wellington
Currently, your ability to buy good quality cannabis in Wellington, however easy, is quite limited, even for those with a medical prescription. However, with the 2018 law legalizing medical cannabis in New Zealand, access to the drug in high qualities should become easier. This may lead to a possible legalisation of recreational cannabis as well; a development that would make it even easier to buy cannabis in Wellington.
New Zealand walks towards a liberalization of cannabis in the next few years, following the example of other countries – Netherlands, Uruguay, Canada and some states in the United States. The political and economic impacts must be considered when discussing whether it should become legal or not, but the example of these countries should give a perspective on where legalisation leads.