Is Marijuana Legal in New Zealand?
The marijuana industry in New Zealand is currently at a crossroad as the nation gears up to go to the polls to determine the future of the industry. From all indications, the outcome will most likely favor the legalization of the drug use for therapeutic purposes. But until that happens, cannabis remains a controlled substance under the Misuse of Drugs Acts of 1975.
But although the contents of the 1975 Act have largely remained the same since then, there have been significant changes in its implementation. Law enforcement agencies are no longer as zealous as before about the prosecution of cases of small possession and medicinal use. Recently, the Government instituted the Medical Marijuana Scheme, which, in addition to allowing for easier access to medical cannabis, also fast-tracks the process of acquiring state licenses to cultivate and manufacture cannabis products for NZ companies.
According to opposition figures, the new Medical Marijuana Scheme is a ‘stealth’ form of legalization. The Government has openly admitted to major changes in its regulatory approach, although the legal framework remains locked in prohibition.
2020 New Zealand Cannabis Referendum
Recent polls show that the outcome will likely favor pro-legalization legislature with strict measures to control public-place and underage use. According to a recent survey undertaken by the Helen Clark Foundation, support for legalization comes in a 50%. The referendum in itself is a product of a dramatic shift in public opinion towards legalization of the drug use.
Polls also suggest that the public favors moderate pro-legalization policies with tight restrictions on the drug use. To inform the public and gather feedback about the granular details of the referendum, the government recently released a draft bill for the public’s perusal. The released draft contains question samples for the referendum, which covers issues such as age limits, the use of the drug in public places, limits on advertisements, investments in public health education, and a licensing scheme for cannabis companies.
Current Marijuana Laws in NZ
Cannabis is currently classified as a Class C controlled substance under the Misuse of Drugs Act of 1975. However, CBD, an extract of cannabis, is currently classified as a prescription substance, and the Medical Marijuana Scheme provides legal covering for patients seeking out cannabis-based treatments. The Medical Marijuana Scheme will facilitate the introduction of medical cannabis into the country’s mainstream health sector, putting the drug on par with other prescription drugs.
With the Medical marijuana scheme, patients of terminal and chronic illnesses can freely consume the drug without fear of legal repercussions. The Scheme will also minimize the rigors of obtaining a state license for the cultivation and production of cannabis by companies in the country.
These new developments signal a transition away from the prohibition era – a move away from heavy-handed responses to medicinal and personal use. These developments also project New Zealand as a role model for the rest of the world looking to put their houses in order with regards the drug use.
What is Legal and Not in Terms of the Use of Marijuana?
The new Medical Cannabis Scheme, which was launched on April 1, 2019, basically allows patients to gain access to cannabis like they would any other prescription drug. The scheme provides a blanket authorization for General Practitioners (GPs) and medical specialists to prescribe cannabis products as they deem fit.
Recreational use is still outlawed, but it’s common for law enforcement to let offenders slide these days. According to the Misuse of Drugs Act, possession of small quantities can attract a fine of up to $500 or a six-month jail term, while cultivation and sale can incur up to a 14-year jail term.
The State of Medical Marijuana Use in NZ
The medicinal potentials of cannabis have largely been responsible for the dramatic swing in public opinion and regulatory policies concerning the drug use. The status of cannabis as a medicinal substance has been boosted in recent times with the discovery and exploration of cannabidiol (CBD), the active ingredient in cannabis that provides therapeutic benefits without altering consciousness.
Medical marijuana revolves around treatment procedures that involve the use of CBD products or CDB-dominant strains of cannabis. Although the Government is yet to approve CBD in general, it has given health practitioners the green-light to prescribe CBD and other cannabis products if they deem it fit to treat symptoms without causing any harm.