Explained: The Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill referendum

This election, the public will be asked in a non-binding referendum if they support the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill.

Your playlist will load after this ad

1 NEWS online’s political reporter Anna Whyte explains what the proposed law means and what both sides of the issue are saying. Source: 1 NEWS

If a majority aren’t in favour of the bill and vote no in the referendum, recreational cannabis remains illegal.

But even if most people vote yes, cannabis doesn’t automatically become legal.

The next Government can introduce a proposed law to Parliament after the election and from there, the public can share their thoughts and ideas on legalising cannabis.

How does the bill work?

Currently, the draft bill sets out that only people aged 20 and older could access cannabis.

It would also control the production and supply of cannabis with rules for restricting access, growing and consumption, licensing requirements, taxes, levies and fees.

For example, an individual could own two cannabis plants (to a maximum of four per household) and process up to 14 grams of cannabis a day.

Licensed premises would be allowed to sell cannabis, but it could only be consumed on site or in a private residence. Consumption in public places would be prohibited, and online or remote sales of cannabis would not be allowed.

There would be a ban on advertising of cannabis products, although limited marketing will be allowed.

Holding a referendum on legalising the personal use of cannabis at, or by, the 2020 general election was in the Green and Labour coalition and supply agreement in forming the Government in 2017.

Labour leader Jacinda Ardern said if re-elected she was committed to following through with the results of the referendum.

National told 1 NEWS that, if elected to Government, it would respect the cannabis referendum outcome and, if passed, introduce the bill and send it to Select Committee.

“Whether the bill progresses beyond that stage will depend on public submissions and Parliament.”

What do those on each side of the argument think about the proposed law legalising recreational cannabis?

The ‘no’ side

The New Zealand Medical Association (NZMA) opposes legalisation, saying cannabis causes a range of health and social harms.

NZMA chair Kate Baddock said that “cannabis needs to be viewed in terms of social determinants and the social gradient where our most vulnerable people are at greater risk of drug harm”.

“In addition to the physical harm caused by cannabis, its use creates social and psychological harm, particularly for younger people,” she said.

National's Paula Bennett said in February people were “not getting prosecuted for personal use" and people were “realising that actually legalising recreational cannabis can't be good for our mental health as a nation".

The ‘yes’ side

The Drug Foundation believes legalising cannabis will help control the use of the drug and would reduce harm to health over time.

“Under this bill, the Government takes control over the cannabis market, from seed to sale,” outgoing chief executive Ross Bell said.

AUT associate professor Khylee Quince told TVNZ1's Breakfast in June that drug reform would lead to better outcomes for health, education and justice.

“This is an opportunity to control a substance that at the moment we have very little control over,” she said.

"Most New Zealanders have used it, most adult New Zealanders have used it. Clearly its illegal status doesn't put people off and they're able to find it, so they have access to it. So this is attempting to ring fence some of those issues."