1 May 2020

Govt reveals final cannabis legislation to be voted on in referendum

12:26 pm on 1 May 2020

Even if New Zealanders vote to legalise cannabis in this year's planned referendum, they will not be allowed to purchase edible products right away.

Cannabis plant. Marijuana plant.

Photo: Unsplash / Shane Rounce

The final legislation - to be considered by the public - has been published this morning and outlines a phased approach to making the drug legal.

Only fresh and dried cannabis, including plants and seeds, would be immediately approved for production and sale under the new regime.

A new Cannabis Regulatory Authority could later recommend that edibles be approved as well - but not beverages or novelty products, like gummy bears.

Cannabis edibles would have to meet specific requirements, such as being produced in premises separate from conventional food production. They would be banned if they were found to appeal to children and young people.

Anyone selling cannabis to under 20-year-olds could face a four-year prison term, and selling cannabis without a licence has a penalty of up to two years jail.

Other offences such as breaching licence provisions carry hefty fines.

But anyone under 20 found in possession of cannabis would get a health-based response such as an education session or they would pay a small fine, and would not get a conviction.

Levels of THC, the main psychoactive compound in cannabis, would be subject to limits and products would have to be labelled with the amount of THC and of CBD (cannabidiol).

Retailers would not be able to sell cannabis or cannabis products at a reduced price, or give them away for free, and advertising would be banned.

The products would be taxed and a levy, similar to that applied to alcohol and gambling, would fund services to reduce cannabis harm.

The Bill confirms details made public last year - such as an age limit and a maximum purchase limit.

A person aged 20 or over would be able to buy up to 14 grams of dried cannabis (or its equivalent) per day only from licensed outlets, consume cannabis on private property or at a licensed venue and grow up to two plants, with a maximum of four plants per household.

The draft Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill has been updated and includes details about:

  • how the cannabis market would work and the phased introduction of cannabis starting with fresh and dried cannabis, cannabis plants and seeds
  • how the regulation of consumption premises would work
  • the approvals process for cannabis products and which products would be prohibited
  • the licensing requirements
  • how the Bill proposes to reduce young people's exposure to cannabis; and
  • infringements and penalties

Read a summary of the Bill here

The public will be asked a simple yes/no referendum question: 'Do you support the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill?' and if it passes Parliament will put through legislation to make it lawful.

The referendum is one of two taking place at the general election. Voters will also be asked whether the End of Life Choice Act 2019 should come into force, giving people with a terminal illness the option of requesting assisted dying.

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