Dried cannabis

As part of this year’s General Election, you’ll also have the chance to vote in a referendum on whether the recreational use of cannabis should become legal.

The New Zealand Government referendum website gives a useful breakdown of what the referendum involves here. Simply, you’ll be able to answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the referendum question: do you support the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill?

It’s important to remember that if more than 50% of people vote ‘yes’, that won’t mean recreational cannabis becomes legal straight away. After the election, the incoming Government can introduce a Bill to Parliament that would legalise and control cannabis. This process would include the opportunity for the public to share their thoughts and ideas on how the law might work.

Wait, when will the cannabis referendum take place?

You can vote in the cannabis referendum as part of the 2020 General Election. You can vote from 3 October to Election Day, 17 October. You can find out more about how to vote here.

What is the Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill?

The proposed Bill sets out a way for the Government to control and regulate cannabis. It covers how people can produce, supply, or consume cannabis.

The main purpose of the Bill is to reduce cannabis-related harm to individuals, whānau, and communities by:

  • Providing access to legal cannabis that meets quality and potency requirements
  • Eliminating the illegal supply of cannabis
  • Raising awareness of the health risks associated with cannabis use
  • Restricting young people’s access to cannabis
  • Limiting the public visibility of cannabis
  • Requiring health warnings on packaging and at the time of purchase
  • Improving access to health and social services, and other kinds of support for whānau
  • Makings sure the response to any breach of the law is fair

How will the Bill legalise cannabis?

The proposed bill would legalise restricted access to cannabis. That means a person aged 20 or over would be able to:

  • Buy up to 14g of dried cannabis (or equivalent) per day from licensed outlets only
  • Enter licenced premises where cannabis is sold or consumed
  • Consume cannabis on private property or at licensed premises
  • Grow up to two plants, with a max of four plants per household
  • Share up to 14g of dried cannabis (or equivalent) with another person aged 20 or over.

The Bill would also regulate how cannabis is produced and supplied by:

  • Limiting the total amount of licensed cannabis for sale
  • Controlling the potency and contents of licensed cannabis and cannabis products
  • Applying an excise tax when a product is packaged and labelled for sale
  • Setting up a licensing system under which all cannabis-related businesses must hold a licence
  • Regulating location and trading hours for premises where cannabis is sold or consumed, in consultation with local communities
  • Banning people from importing cannabis and allowing only licensed businesses to import cannabis seeds
  • Separating businesses that are licensed to grow cannabis and produce cannabis products from businesses that are licensed to operate premises where cannabis can be sold and consumed.

Where can I find out more about the cannabis referendum?

The New Zealand Government referendum website has lots of resources available to explain the cannabis referendum, including answers to frequently asked questions, and a summary of the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill.

You can find out more about the process of voting in referendums, and the General Election, through the Electoral Commission.

If you have any concerns about your own drinking or drug taking, get in touch with the Alcohol Drug Helpline on 0800 787 797, or text 8681. You’ll be able to speak with a trained counsellor who can provide you with helpful information, insight and support. They’re available 24/7, all calls are free and confidential. You can also chat to the team through their website.