Why the New Draft Cannabis Legislation is a Win-Win for Everyone
The proposed Cannabis Legalization and Control Bill is a reflection of the government’s sincere departure from the prohibition era. The bill represents the government’s heartfelt desire to save cannabis users from the flaws of the illicit black market and to promote the safe use of the drug.
With the proposed scheme of things, high-quality cannabis products, including the whole plant and seeds will become readily available for eligible users, eroding the patronage of the illegal black market. Licensed cannabis dealers will be more accountable and users will be given the choice to grow the plant for their use.
Details of the proposal also reveal a possible taxation plan that could help fund programs that will mitigate cannabis harm as well as other government programs.
Some part of the bills also seems ill-advised, but they might help assuage fears of legalization fallouts. For instance, the limit on the THC content of products has been set at 15%. This limit will likely not affect THC consumption significantly, as users will still find a workaround to pound a strong-enough grip of the psychoactive substance.
The 15% limit isn’t purely arbitrary, though. It was decided upon after rounds of consultations and deliberations, and experts believe it’s close to what most consumers are used to. However, it’s untenable for the government to seek to control consumer behavior through the enforcement of such a limit.
Key Clauses in the Proposed Cannabis Legalization Act
The draft cannabis legislation seeks to provide New Zealanders with easier access to high-quality cannabis products, including those that are home-grown.
Starting with the legalization of only cannabis plants and seeds, the proposed bill is a patchwork that will lift the ban on the drug in successive phases. The patchwork addresses issues of limits on sales and possession. Buyers will be allowed to buy and possess no more than 14 grams of the drug per time. The bill also stipulates an age limit of 20 for buyers and a limit of 2 plants for personal cultivation and use. A limit of four plants has also been stipulated for each household.
Individuals are de facto allowed to consume the drug on private property, but the bill goes on further to make provisions for consuming in public spaces. With a fuss-free licensing system in place, the bill will usher in a new crop of cannabis “coffee shops” where on-site consumption of cannabis (including smoking) is allowed.
The bill also proposes new, less stringent penalties for drug offenders. Selling cannabis to minors may attract up to a four-year imprisonment, and selling without a state license can incur up to a two-year jail sentence. A hefty fine has also been proposed to dissuade retailers from violating their state license terms. But minors caught buying or carrying the drug will, at worst, face a small fine or be placed on a health-related educational program.
Provisions for sale and distribution are further elaborated with clauses that prohibit the discounted sale of the drugs or the gifting of the drug to customers. However, individuals are allowed to gift up to 14 grams of the drug to adults 20 and older. The advertisement of cannabis products is also outlawed.
In addition, producers are mandated to indicate in every product label the level of THC and CBD as well as a warning of possible health complications that may arise from the drug use.
Another prominent component of the bill is that of taxation. The taxes proposed are akin to those in place in the alcohol and tobacco industries. The revenue from the taxes will help the government to run cannabis-related programs that’ll mitigate any harm the drug might cause on society. A report published by the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research estimates the revenue from cannabis taxes could pour in some $490 million into the government’s coffers yearly.
Pro-cannabis groups have hailed the proposed bill, stating it’s a recipe for positive referendum outcome. The bill provides a good balance between freedom and moderation.
Cannabis activists also believe that with the reality check emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic, people will be less inclined to buy the line that cannabis is harmful to the society and is worth spending hundreds of millions of dollars per year to prohibit.
Also, not only will it help the government to save hundreds of millions of dollars, it will, in fact, help generate more revenue for the government to tackle more pertinent issues, especially those arising from the fallout of the pandemic.