New Zealand Finalizes its Cannabis Regulations Ahead of Referendum
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The final rules and restrictions for New Zealand’s potential legal cannabis market have been revealed to its residents.
After months of deliberation, ministers and government officials have finalized the legalisation measures that will be put to the country in a referendum this September.
Recreational regulations for consumers
The proposed rules are largely the same as those in the drafted regulations released last December, but there are a few key updates.
Only fresh and dried cannabis (including plants and seeds) would be immediately approved for production and sale; a new Cannabis Regulatory Authority could later approve edibles for sale, but not beverages or products that could appeal to children, such as gummy bears.
The tax on products would help fund services to reduce cannabis harm.
Individuals would be allowed to grow two plants on private property (“out of sight”), with four plants maximum per household.
Anyone over the age of 20 would be able to purchase up to 14 grams of dried cannabis per day from licensed outlets.
A fine for consuming cannabis in public could go up to $500, while the penalty for selling cannabis to anyone younger than 20 could be a prison sentence of up to four years. Instead of a conviction, the underage individual would receive an intervention, such as an education session, or a small fee.
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.
A cap would be in place to limit that amount of cannabis available for sale in a licensed market. Any would-be cannabis retailers would have to apply for a portion of this cap, but no license holder would be able to hold more than 20 percent.
When deciding which businesses to license, the Cannabis Regulatory Authority will consider the degree they’re committed to three guiding principles:
- representing or partnering with communities disproportionately harmed by cannabis
- generating social benefit and building community partnerships
- promoting employment opportunities and career pathways
Part of the cap would be set aside for micro-cultivators (licensed businesses growing on a small scale).
Businesses allowed to grow cannabis wouldn’t be able to operate premises where cannabis is sold or consumed.
Limits would also be placed on products’ potencies, but these have yet to be specified.
The proposed regulations also open the door to New Zealand ‘coffee shops,’ where customers could consumer cannabis on site. These would be required to provide conventional food and drink but forbidden from selling alcohol or tobacco.
Now for the ‘reefer-endum’
The referendum will take place on September 19, alongside the country’s general election.
On that day, voters will be asked: Do you support the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill? To answer, they will be able to choose from two responses:
- Yes, I support the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill
- No, I do not support the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill
As for the result, a recent poll found that 54 percent of Kiwi participants supported cannabis legalization, while 45 percent thought the drug should remain illegal.
“Today we are launching the draft law to legalize and regulate cannabis,” Green Party MP Chloe Swarbrick, who helped draft the original referendum paper, said on social media.
“It has taken two and half years of negotiation behind the scenes across our parliament and decades of work by activists, advocates and researchers who have sought to understand how best to create an evidence-informed approach to reduce drug harm in our communities.”
“We are taking this conversation out of petty partisan politics and placing it in the hands of you.”