Using Marijuana in NZ
New Zealand is home to one of the largest user bases of cannabis. Cannabis is currently the most widely used illegal drug in the country. Public opinion about the drug use has largely been polarizing, with the ban on the drug currently hindering the emergence of evidence for or against the drug use. And the results of studies so far have been a mixed bag of outcomes, some pointing to benevolent effects while others highlight its malignant effects.
However, given the strong consensus in the scientific community for the need to explore the medicinal properties of cannabis, the government has become more inclined to relax regulations for research and clinical use. Law enforcement now tends to overlook cases of medical use and small possession, with the government openly admitting to a change of approach from prohibition to health-conscious regulations.
In many cases, people caught using cannabis in small quantities only face formal warnings or confiscations.
Is Marijuana Legal in New Zealand?
The use of cannabis in New Zealand is currently subjected to the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975, which proscribes the drug as a Class C controlled substance. However, while the drug has not been declassified, it has been approved for medicinal use.
Recently, the government enacted a new law that paves the way for patients to gain easy access to cannabis. The move has been heralded as the beginning of a new era that will gradually culminate in the assimilation of cannabis into the mainstream health sector.
The new law puts an end to the prosecution of terminally ill patients and others with serious chronic diseases who smoke weed. The new law will also facilitate the cultivation, extraction, processing, and manufacturing of cannabis products by licensed companies for research and clinical purposes. This new opening will place New Zealand in pole position in the international legal medical marijuana industry, as the state-licensed companies will service medical marijuana needs both at home and abroad.
What are the Laws on Medical/Recreational Marijuana in New Zealand?
The Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Amendment Bill stipulates the legal channel of distribution of medical cannabis products. Initially, the Ministry of Health directly supervised access to the drug by the patients, requiring each doctor’s script to pass through the Ministry’s officials before it can be honored at pharmacies and dispensaries. However, the health ministry has recently withdrawn from this supervisory role, leaving it up to only licensed physicians to prescribe the drug for patients to further ease access to the drugs.
Nonetheless, the laws on recreational use have hardly been altered on the books, although law enforcement now tends to overlook small offenses. The Misuse of Drugs Act stipulates punishment for offenses ranging from $500 for possession to a 14-year jail term for cultivation and supply. A supplier is presumed to be anyone caught in possession of at least 1 ounce of cannabis buds or 100 cannabis joints.
Understanding the Laws Surrounding Marijuana Possession in New Zealand
To navigate the regulatory terrain of cannabis in New Zealand as a user, you need to acquaint yourself with the law. This way, you’ll know how best to carry the drug with minimal exposure to risks of prosecution.
When you’re adept with possession laws, you can easily evade possession charges. For starters, you should learn how to position your case in such a way that makes it difficult or impossible for prosecutors to satisfy the conditions of a valid charge.
These conditions include:
- That you knew you were in possession of an illegal drug: You can dispute the assumption that you knew you were in possession of an illegal drug.
- That you’re responsible for the drug: Don’t make it easy for the prosecutors to establish that you’re responsible for the presence of the illegal drug found in your possession.
- That you’re intentionally possessing or using or selling the drug:
- You can easily get away from a possession charge if you make it impossible for prosecutors to satisfy any one of these factors.
2020 New Zealand Cannabis Referendum
The Government recently released a draft bill for the referendum to provide New Zealanders with adequate information and also get feedback on the referendum in a timely fashion. The draft highlights some of the basics of the referendum, including a limit of 20 years for purchasers, a ban on consumption of cannabis in public places, mandatory investments in public health education programs, restrictions on advertisements, and a licensing scheme for cannabis businesses.