By Emily Ledger
Ahead of the referendum next year, New Zealand’s government has published draft legislation which would shape a legal Cannabis market in the country. The referendum on Cannabis legalisation will take place alongside the General Election in 2020.
The draft legislation includes proposed details on the age limitation, possession, and advertising guidelines. Voters in next year’s election will additionally be asked: “Do you support the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill?”
Firstly, the draft highlights that the minimum legal purchase and use age would be set at 20. The government hopes that this will decrease the number of first time Cannabis users in the country.
The bill also stipulates that the sale of Cannabis would not be permitted from premises that also sell alcohol. Premises must be licensed before they will be able to sell, or allow the use of Cannabis. Cannabis may also be used freely on private property.
In addition, the bill would prohibit the use of Cannabis in public spaces. However, citizens would be permitted to carry up to 14 grams of Cannabis in public. If this rule is broken, then the person in question could be subject to a $200NZ infringement fee, or a $500NZ court-imposed fine.
Along with the regulation of the retail outlets, the bill outlines plans to introduce strict controls and regulations on the potency of legal Cannabis. It is hoped that this will decrease the number of high-THC / low-CBD Cannabis. So-called ‘street Cannabis’ is often much more potent than regulated strains, and is thought to have more serious side effects.
Of the draft Cannabis legislation, Justice Minister Andrew Little said:
“It’s important that voters go into the 2020 General Election informed about the referendums. The Government is committed to a well-informed, impartial referendum process.”
Minister Little added that the current draft should be thought of as a “first draft”, and that the public should expect the final draft Bill to be available early next year.
Cannabis companies in the newly regulated market would also be strictly limited in methods of advertising. This early draft concluded that there would be a ban on all marketing and advertising of Cannabis products. In addition, products would also be required to display harm minimisation messaging,
Following the announcement of the planned Cannabis referendum, polls have shown fluctuations in support for legalisation. In November 2018, it was recorded that 60 per cent of the public supported legalisation.
This figure fell to 52 per cent in April 2019, and then to 39 per cent in August. However, the most recent poll showed that 48 per cent of those surveyed would vote in favour of legalisation, while 39 per cent would vote against it.
The New Zealand government has announced that the referendum will take place in September 2020. The question will be put to the public alongside the General Election decision on the 19th of September.
The Greens negotiated the referendum under their Supply and Confidence agreement with the three-way coalition, and support legalisation. A second referendum question will be voted on on election day. Although the results of the referendum will provide a clear view of public feeling in relation to the legalisation of Cannabis, the results are indicative. This means that the party that wins power in September can still oppose the passing of the bill and prevent legalisation.