Cannabis gummy bears could be banned under law reform

Green MP Chlöe Swarbrick has brushed off National's concerns around cannabis-infused edibles, suggesting most types will likely be banned. 

National's drug law reform spokesperson Paula Bennett said cannabis-infused edibles could be "dressed up so they're appealing to young people and accidental use is of real concern".

Swarbrick wouldn't confirm cannabis-infused gummy bears would definitely be banned, but said there was consensus among the Greens, Labour and New Zealand First that protecting children and displacing the black market were top priorities.

"In line with all of those things, it's pretty evident that we will be following what other jurisdictions have done in terms of banning or ensuring that we won't have gummy bears."

Swarbrick said there's no way with the Government's "health-based approach" to drug reform that "we would be enabling products that could be argued as targeted towards children".

She said there will be "nothing to glorify the consumption of cannabis" - and actually, "quite the opposite because there will be public education campaigns about the harms".

Green MP Chlöe Swarbrick.
Green MP Chlöe Swarbrick. Photo credit: Getty

Comparing cannabis-infused lollies to alcohol-soaked lollies, Bennett said: "You're not going to get absolutely drunk off a couple of vodka-soaked lollies, but you can get absolutely wasted on a few concentrated marijuana [edibles]."

Swarbrick admitted it's a valid concern. Early last year, a child in New Mexico suffered a reaction after mistaking her parent's medical marijuana gummy bears for regular lollies and sharing them at school.

But Swarbrick said most countries or states that have moved towards legalisation and regulation of cannabis have banned products that market to kids or are seen as marketing to kids.

"Interestingly enough, the often raved-about gummy bears are actually now illegal pretty much everywhere where they have a regulated market."

In the US state of Alaska - where cannabis is legal - manufacturers cannot prepare a marijuana product with potency levels exceeding 5mg of active THC (the psychoactive element of cannabis) per serving.

Edible marijuana products also cannot have any printed images in Alaska, including cartoon characters, that specifically target individuals under 21 years of age - one year above the legal age proposed for New Zealand.

Canada - which legalised cannabis in October - has also proposed regulations limiting the amount of THC in individual packages or servings. Under the proposed regulations, flavours that appeal to youth would be banned on packaging.

National's Paula Bennett.
National's Paula Bennett. Photo credit: Getty

Swarbrick, 24, also addressed comments Bennett made about her role as spokesperson for drug law reform.

Bennett, 50, criticised the Government for not taking cannabis legalisation seriously by "throwing something this important out to a very junior Member of Parliament".

Asked if it was about age, Bennett said: "No. The problem is I want a Cabinet minister who's got access to all of the evidence and information, and to be sitting next to them when making these really important decisions."

Swarbrick told Newshub: "I think it's a fascinating insight into the National Party's obsession with power and status over any form of practical or effective approach to getting stuff done."

The Government's legislation on recreational cannabis is expected to be released late this year or early next year, which New Zealanders will vote on in 2020.


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