The Final Draft of the Cannabis Referendum Meets a Warm Welcome

The latest draft of the proposed cannabis regulation will determine how legalization will ensue after a positive referendum outcome

The latest draft of the proposed cannabis regulation will determine how legalization will ensue after a positive referendum outcome. img src

New Zealand Voters Now Know Exactly What Choices They’ll Be Faced with in the Upcoming Ballots

The government has released the final draft of the proposed Cannabis Legislation and Control Bill that will be bounced on voters this September. An initial draft was presented earlier on last December, stirring the pot in both the pro- and anti-legalization camps. But the dust appears to have settled, and the new draft put forward contains the full details of the final proposal that will run through the ballot.

“It has taken two and a half years of negotiation behind the scenes across our Parliament and decades of work by activist, advocates and researchers, who have sought to understand how best to create an evidence-informed approach to reduce drug harm in our communities,” MP Chlöe Swarbrick of the Green party announced officially on Twitter. “We are taking this conversation out of petty partisan politics and placing it in the hands of you.”

The Crucial Details of the Proposed Cannabis Legislation and Control Bill

draft bill covers various issues of cannabis legalization

The draft bill covers various issues of cannabis legalization from age limits to punishment for offenders, sales and distribution, as well as taxation. src

In what will be a slow-grinding legalization process, the bill proposes an initial phase that will legalize the production and sale of only fresh and dried cannabis (the whole plant and seeds). The initial regime will place an age limit on possession and sales to adults younger than 20, as well as a limit of two plants per individual for personal cultivation and use.

Legal retail sales are also limited to 14 grams per individual, and people are also allowed to gift up to 14 grams to another adult. The bill also gives a green light for marijuana “coffee shops” to be opened, where the drug can be legally consumed on-site in public.

Punitive measures have also been elaborated on in the bill. A four-year term awaits anyone caught selling cannabis to minors. However, under-20 possession offenders will only be subjected to health-related programs or asked to pay a small fine.

Anyone caught selling without a license can face up to two years in prison. Harsh punishments have also been stipulated for breaching retail license terms.

Another important limit in the bill is that of the THC levels of products. This limit will be determined by a new cannabis regulatory body. Products will have to come with their THC and CBD contents indicated on their labels. 

Other important limits include a ban on the sale of cannabis products at discounted or give-away prices, and on giving away cannabis products for free. Cannabis product adverts are also banned. 

The bill also covers cannabis taxing. Taxes and levies on cannabis products, similar to those on alcohol and gambling, have been proposed to help fund services that will mitigate the fallout of cannabis legalization. 

Finally, the bill proposes the establishment of a new Cannabis Regulatory Authority mandated to see to the subsequent phases of the legalization process. The body’s first major task will be

“the introduction of other licensed products for sale, including concentrates and cannabis edibles, through regulations,” according to the official summary of the proposal. 

The body will determine the requirements for producing and selling cannabis edibles. For instance, the body will need to stipulate and enforce requirements for companies who produce cannabis edibles as well as conventional foods. The body will also ensure that cannabis edibles on sale do not appeal to children or youngsters.

 

The Final Push

Although it’s a culmination of years of negotiations and consultations, the final draft legislation is only the beginning of what will be a long-winding legalization process. Even if the referendum garners a resounding approval of the bill, the parliament will have the final say. The referendum’s results will be ‘binding’, however. That means lawmakers are bound to enact a version bill; they may decide on alterations after the final deliberations.

It’s hard to tell what the final version of the bill that will be passed will look like. But one thing is clear, though: the legalization of medicinal cannabis and hemp is a foregone conclusion. The referendum, according to the government, is primarily geared towards regulating (not prohibiting) the illicit market, ensuring the safer use of the drug, and implementing quality control measures on marijuana products.

The proposed draft seems to assuage both pro- and anti-legalization parties. The cannabis lobby group NORML branded the proposal a “balanced” legislation and believes it’ll psych up cannabis enthusiasts to amp up their persuasion campaigns and turn up to cast their votes.