Details of 2020 cannabis referendum released, including proposed purchase age

The Government have released details of the 2020 cannabis legalisation referendum, which includes a simple yes/no option, and limiting the purchase age to those aged 20 and over. 

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If legalisation is passed, only those who are 20 years or older can legally use cannabis products. Source: 1 NEWS

The Justice Minister confirmed that the referendum will be based on proposed legislation so that people will be able to see what they are voting for. 

If the referendum result is in favour of legalisation, those aged 20 and over will be able to purchase it.

Private cultivation will be regulated, there will be a ban on cannabis advertising, purchase will be through licensed retailers and consumption of cannabis will be only allowed on private properties or licensed premises.  

Mr Little said there would be "a clear choice for New Zealanders in a referendum at the 2020 general election" with a "simple Yes/No question on the basis of a draft piece of legislation".

Read the paper considered by Cabinet here. 

It will be the only Government initiated referendum at the 2020 election. 

For more on this story, watch 1 NEWS at 6pm. Source: 1 NEWS

When asked why the proposed age of purchasing cannabis sat at 20 years and over, Mr Little said, "we know the medical science says that the human brain is still developing up to the age of 25, but if you put too high of an age on it, you just encourage the black market".

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The Justice Minister said the intention of legalisation only being from 20 is to push back the age of first cannabis use. Source: 1 NEWS

He said one of the objectives was to "push out the age of first use to as late as possible".

"This is about making sure in a situation in which cannabis is legalised, there’s good information, people know what the risks are, we know what the scientific and medical risks are with early consumption of cannabis, and to use this as a device to push that out."

"The choice New Zealand voters will have is, is the status quo a better way of controlling what is a harmful substance, or is legalisation and allowing open and transparent regulation and control a better way."

Ms Swarbrick said "it’s about practically and whether we’re going to be able implement it in displacing the black market".

Mr Little said described the option of releasing draft legislation rather than having a bill going through Parliament that would become law if a majority voted in favour of legalisation , as "pretty much the same".

National leader Simon Bridges said the release of the details was "not good enough".

"The reality of this is that they’ve had 18 months to sort this out and still we don’t know what is going on."

When asked if National would commit to passing legislation if the public voted in favour of legalisation, Mr Bridges said, "it would be helpful to see the law".

"They’re chopping and changing where they’re going on this. I would need to see the law and would need answers to some basic questions."

Green Party's Chlöe Swarbrick said "a referendum needs to be based on a legal regime that people can see, understand and make informed decisions about".

"Having the proposed law developed and released ahead of the referendum is key. We’ve made it abundantly clear throughout the negotiations that our preferred position was to see legislation passed through Parliament before the referendum so it was 'self-executing' with a majority yes vote.

"But we didn’t gain consensus on that step. As it is, a yes vote will be informed by a clear regulatory regime set out in draft legislation that people will know and understand."