Major Announcements Concerning NZ Weed Legalisation in Recent Months
New Zealand has always prided itself in being a socially liberal society. Previous governments have performed liberal acts such as decriminalising prostitution and same-sex marriage. However, the legalisation of marijuana has not been seriously brought to the table by any major party – until now. Within the last six months, the nation seems to have begun considering public opinion and potentially starting the process to legalise cannabis and cannabis products. New Zealand is going green!
In December 2018, legislation to legalise cannabis for medical use was introduced into the nation. Following the overwhelming support of the legalisation of cannabis for medical use, the government announced the prospect of a referendum which would allow the general public to vote on the legal status of cannabis within the country.
New Zealand is set to be the first country in the world which will let the general public decide their stance on the consumption of cannabis within its society.
Current Status of Marijuana in NZ
Under the Misuse of Drugs Acts of 1975, cannabis preparations (cannabis oils, resin and other by-products) are listed as Class B drugs. Cannabis fruit, seeds and plant are named Class C drugs under the drug act. Currently, cannabis in all recreational forms is illegal within the borders of the nation.
If caught in the possession of cannabis, individuals face fines of up to $500, and a prospective jail sentence of three months. If caught in the possession of more than 28 grams or 100 joints of cannabis, the person holding the products would be considered a drug dealer. Unless the individual can indeed prove they are not a drug dealer, a maximum jail sentence of eight years can be given.
In December 2018, New Zealand passed a law which would make medical marijuana available to New Zealanders. After years of campaigning, New Zealanders who are chronically ill can now have access to marijuana to aid in their treatment. This legislation permits the terminally ill to begin smoking marijuana without fear of the prosecution of the law. Aside from the liberty of use, this legislature will allow the legal and local cultivation of medical cannabis.
Following the legalisation of cannabis, the New Zealand Government seeks to hold a public referendum on the legalisation of cannabis for recreational purposes. Despite overwhelming public support for the legislature and referendum, the opposition National Party has condemned the motion, labelling it as ‘lazy and dangerous’.
‘We support medicinal cannabis but strongly oppose the smoking of loose leaf cannabis in public. Loose leaf is not a medicine,’ remarks Shane Reti, the Nationals’ spokesperson on health.
Patients who wish to utilise marijuana for medical conditions will have to wait at least a year as a new set of regulations, licensing rules and quality standards are set in place.
Current Status of Hemp and CBD in NZ
Cannabidiol – also known as CBD – is no longer a class B1 substance under the Misuse of Drugs Act of 1975. Following the legislature passed in 2018, CBD transcended from a controlled substance to a prescription medicine under the Medicines Act 1981.
In order to utilise CBD, patients must obtain a prescription from an authorised physician. This prescription permits patients to import or use CBD for medicinal purposes. CBD products can now be utilised in New Zealand as long as they contain less than 2% Tetrahydrocannabinol.
According to New Zealand Food Safety, as of November 2018, the sale of hemp seeds as food became legal. In order to achieve this, amendments were made to the Misuse of Drugs (Industrial Hemp) Regulations 2006 and the Food Regulations 2015. Despite its legal status, hemp production is a highly regulated process in order to ensure that cannabis products high in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are not produced.
NZ’s Cannabis Referendum
The New Zealand (NZ) government has announced its plans to legalise and regulate the use of cannabis within the country. Justice Minister Andrew Little has confirmed in a press release that the results of the referendum will be binding. Whatever the results may be, the government will be obliged to act based on the voter’s will.
“Officials are now empowered to draft the legislation with stakeholder input, and the Electoral Commission will draft the referendum question to appear on the ballot,” Little remarks in the press release. “The voters’ choice will be binding because all of the parties that make up the current Government have committed to abide by the outcome.”
The referendum is set to cover the basic elements which will govern the use, sale, possession and cultivation of cannabis for adults aged 20 and older. The referendum is set to appear in New Zealand’s ballot in 2020.
The referendum is set to take a simple yes/no answering format and the draft law will contain important governing tenets such as:
- A minimum age of 20 to use and purchase recreational cannabis
- Regulations and commercial supply controls, limiting cannabis use and sales to licensed premises
- A ban on advertising cannabis products
- Limited home-growing and private cultivation options
- A public education program
Cannabis Legislation in New Zealand
New Zealand prides itself on being a socially liberal society, and the strategy of asking the public fits within this perspective. Within the last six months, the government has introduced laws set to change the status of marijuana within its society. In 2020, citizens will take a vote on whether cannabis will be allowed recreationally in society, and potentially change the way cannabis is perceived and used within the country. If early polling results and other regions are anything to go by, New Zealand is likely to go green in the very near future.