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New Zealand Government Reveals Its Proposed Cannabis Laws

By Leo Bear-McGuinness

Published: Dec 03, 2019   
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New Zealanders have been given the best look yet on what they’ll be voting on in the country’s upcoming cannabis referendum.

The draft Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill, which the government previewed today, would allow any New Zealand citizen over the age of 20 to purchase cannabis legally and consume it in private homes or licensed premises.

What's in the bill?

With the priority of public health in mind, the bill would ban all advertising of cannabis products, requires harm minimization messaging on all packaging, and exclude online or remote sales.

The draft legislation also prohibits any premises that already serves alcohol and tobacco from selling cannabis.

Individuals would be allowed to grow two plants on private property (“if done discretely”) and carry only 14 grams of dried cannabis in a public space.

Limits would also be placed on products’ potencies, but these have yet to be specified.

Offences would range from a $200 fee for consuming cannabis in public to four years’ imprisonment for suppling cannabis to someone under the age of 19. 

As the primary policies of the cannabis proposal are to reduce harm and “address the wellbeing of New Zealanders,” the bill also includes a levy to directly fund the healthcare, education, and research efforts that would reduce the “harm cannabis causes.”

On to the ‘reefer-endum’

The draft legislation will be submitted to a cross-party meeting later this week.

“I have invited representatives from each party represented in parliament to meet with me this Thursday to provide their feedback on the draft bill,” wrote New Zealand’s justice minister, Andrew Little.

“My aim is to have the final draft bill available by early next year, so there is time to argue for change.”

While it remains to be seen whether New Zealand’s other ruling parties change any of the bill’s details, the real argument will be had by the public next year when the country enters its 2020 general election, and the cannabis question will be included on the ballot.

On that day, it’s been revealed that voters will be asked: Do you support the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill? The two available responses will then be:

  • Yes, I support the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill
  • No, I do not support the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill

“By making the referendum questions and the initial draft Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill available early the intention is to encourage public awareness and discussion,” Little wrote in a press statement. “It is important that the public feel they can meaningfully participate in the referendum process.”

Given the notoriously divisive nature of referendums, the New Zealand government has promised to add downloadable fact sheets to its website next year in the effort to keep the public informed throughout the upcoming campaigns.

“Experience from overseas tells us that provision of factual, explanatory information is vital for the public to be informed and for an outcome that can be accepted by voters even if the result is not what they voted for,” Little added.

As for the result, a recent poll found that around 42 percent of Kiwi participants supported cannabis legalization, while 48 percent thought the drug should remain illegal.

Leo Bear-McGuinness

Science Writer & Editor

Leo joined Analytical Cannabis in 2019. From research to regulations and analysis to agriculture, his writing covers all the need-to-know news for the cannabis industry. He holds a Bachelor's in Biology from Newcastle University and a Master's in Science Communication from the University of Edinburgh.


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