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New Zealand Preemptively Drafts Cannabis Legislation

December 17, 2019 12:38 pm ET
New Zealand Preemptively Drafts Cannabis Legislation

Although cannabis has not yet become legal in New Zealand, the government has announced a draft Cannabis Legalization and Control Bill. The bill is designed to control the recreational cannabis market should it be necessary. The fact that New Zealand already has a draft bill is quite impressive, especially since it’s contingent upon legalization. Countries such as South Africa only started discussing any regulations after the legalization of cannabis consumption in private capacity. 

Alongside the Cannabis Legalization and Control Bill, a Cannabis Regulatory Authority would be established to perform a variety of functions which include licensing and authorizing activities, monitoring compliance and developing good practice guidelines. Another function of this authority is to administer and collect excise taxes, levies, and fees. The authority will also have to set the levels of THC that will be allowed. 

What We Can Expect

Let’s have a look at what we can expect if cannabis legalization was to come into effect in New Zealand:

  • Individuals need to be at least 20 years in order to purchase and use a recreational cannabis product. 
  • Individuals can only consume cannabis in the privacy of the own homes as well as licensed premises.
  • Individuals will be allowed to have no more than 14grams of dried cannabis on them in public spaces.
  • The same 14gram rule is applied for the quantity that individuals can purchase in a day. 
  • Infringement fees can be $200 or a court-imposed fine of up to $500. 
  • There will be a complete ban on marketing and advertising of cannabis products. 
  • Only licensed stores will be able to sell any cannabis products.
  • Alcohol and tobacco will not be allowed to be sold on the same premises that cannabis is being sold or consumed on. 
  • Cannabis product sales will be limited to physical stores only (online sales will not be permitted).
  • Individuals over 20 years old will be allowed to grow 2 plants on their own property. If there is more than one individual on the property, then the total of plants raises to 4 plants in total. 
  • Cannabis products will also be required to carry disclaimers about any potential harm caused by using the product (just like cigarettes).
  • Tax will be implemented on cannabis. The draft bill does have a section for that, although there are no specific rates available yet. 

Although this is only a draft, which will most likely stir up a debate, the government is committed to a well-informed and impartial referendum process. They want to have a final draft bill available in the early stages of next year so that there may be time to argue for change. The government is set on encouraging public awareness and discussion around the proposed Cannabis Legislation and Control Bill. They want the public to feel that they can meaningfully participate in the process and when the voting time comes, they’ll be given two options: 1) Yes, I support the proposed Cannabis Legislation and Control Bill and 2) No, I do not support the proposed Cannabis Legislation. Voters will have to choose one, but only after the government has made sure the public have said their piece and are well educated. 

Despite growing support for cannabis, Simon Bridges is urging Kiwis to oppose cannabis legislation on the basis that the cannabis referendum risks becoming New Zealand’s Brexit. This sounds like someone jumping to a drastic conclusion. Mr. Bridges made his statement based on the current unanswered status of three questions, three questions can be effectively answered.  He states that the Kiwis are going into the referendum without all the information when this is one of the best-prepared bills and referendums regarding cannabis in the world. Keeping in mind that this is also a draft bill and that they want it to be discussed and questioned, in order to establish the best possible final bill. 

Areas of Concern

Simon Bridges’ 3 questions of concern, which has also led him to accuse the cannabis referendum of becoming New Zealand’s’ Brexit

1. What will the excise tax be?

Set it too high and you risk continued underground markets. Set it too low and you give individuals incentive to consume it. 

2. What tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) levels will be allowed?

In the ’80s, THC content was sitting at less than 10%, while today’s THC levels are reaching numbers of 30%. 

3. How will the government, or the yet-to-be-established authority, deal with driving under the influence?

Having a look at those questions, it is hard to say that those are worth comparing the cannabis referendum to Brexit. He may have simply wanted to attach those currently unanswered questions to something that caused major unrest amongst those living in England in an effort to sway the votes. New Zealand is lucky to have advocates looking out for both sides. Simon Bridges did state that whatever the outcome is as per the will of the people, he will support it. He may jump to drastic comparisons but at least he is concerned for and in support of the people. 

Consider the fact that all of this is going on before the voting, New Zealanders can be sure that they ARE getting all the information, and if they feel like they aren’t, the Governments early preparation has made it possible to question, discuss and even argue about it. Kiwis and other New Zealand citizens are lucky to have a government preparing so well for a possible legalized cannabis status. As previously stated, other countries like South Africa are taking significantly more time to establish something like this and only started after it was made legal for private usage. 

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