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This referendum will ask the public whether the recreational use of cannabis should become legal
In December 2019, the Government released a first draft of the Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill for public consideration. The draft Bill describes the key aspects of proposed rules about growing, selling and purchasing cannabis for recreational purposes. The Government published the first draft of the Bill in December to ensure that New Zealanders were informed about the direction being taken and the decisions that had been made to date.
A second draft of the Bill, which will be released in the first half of 2020, will contain more detail. This will be the version of the Bill that is voted on in the referendum.
The referendum question
The proposed referendum question is:
Do you support the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill?
Yes, I support the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill.
No, I do not support the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill.
This referendum is about recreational cannabis only
The draft Bill outlines a proposed law for legalising and controlling cannabis for recreational use. There are already laws in place to facilitate access to medicinal cannabis and hemp. As a result, these are not included in the proposed law. The differences between recreational cannabis, medicinal cannabis and hemp are outlined below.
- recreational cannabis - It is currently illegal in New Zealand to use or possess cannabis for recreational use. It's also illegal to grow or supply cannabis for recreational use. The proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill outlines a proposed law that would regulate cannabis for recreational use.
- medicinal cannabis – The Medicinal Cannabis Scheme regulates the manufacture and supply of medicinal cannabis. The Scheme, effective from 1 April 2020, aims to increase access to medicinal cannabis products. Medicinal cannabis is not included in the proposed law that will be voted on in the referendum.
- hemp – Hemp contains very low amounts of psychoactive chemicals and is used to create various products such as oil, rope fibre and hemp seeds. In New Zealand, hemp growers have a specific license to grow the plant. The current scheme to regulate the production and sale of industrial hemp has existed since 2006. Hemp is not included in the proposed law that will be voted on in the referendum.
For information about medicinal cannabis, refer to the Medicinal Cannabis Scheme – Ministry of Health.
Core elements of the draft Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill
The draft Bill proposes a regulatory model that is a government-controlled regulated market covering the production, supply and use of cannabis.
The draft Bill outlining the proposed regulated scheme for legally accessing cannabis is currently being developed. Read the first version of the draft Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill below.
The core elements of the proposed scheme are:
- A minimum purchase and use age of 20
- Confining use to private homes and licensed premises
- Prescribing conditions for personal growing and sharing
- Requirements for public health messaging
- Licensing the whole of the supply chain
- Restricting marketing and advertising
What happens after the votes are counted?
If more than 50% of voters vote 'Yes' in the referendum, recreational use of cannabis won't become legal straight away. After the election, the incoming Government can introduce a Bill to Parliament that would make recreational use of cannabis legal. This process would include the opportunity for the public to share their thoughts and ideas on how the law might work.
If more than 50% of voters vote 'No' in the referendum, recreational use of cannabis will remain illegal, as is the current law.
Medicinal cannabis and hemp will not be affected by the outcome of the referendum. Medicinal use of cannabis will still be allowed if prescribed by a health practitioner and hemp will still be legal.