Government warned against commercial sale of cannabis-infused products like gummy bears, brownies

The Ministry of Justice warned the Government that cannabis-infused edibles should not be sold commercially if New Zealand votes to legalise cannabis. 

But despite the advice, the Government is pushing ahead, with New Zealanders set to vote on legislation on legalising recreational cannabis in 2020

The same Ministry of Justice officials talked up the benefits of legalising cannabis - especially for Māori. 

A December 2018, document obtained by Newshub under the Official Information Act shows the Ministry of Justice told the Government that cannabis-infused brownies, lotions and gummy bears should be okay for people to make at home. 

But while officials were fine with home baking, they recommended cannabis-infused products should not be manufactured commercially.

"We do not recommend that these products are manufactured commercially, given how appealing they are to new users," the document reads. 

"These products are often much more appealing to new and young users and could, therefore, increase cannabis use. This would be contrary to our objective of improving the wellbeing of New Zealanders," it adds. 

National's drug spokesperson and deputy leader, Paula Bennett, has expressed concern about cannabis-infused products appealing to young people

"They appeal to younger people. They are sweeter. They are easier to consume. They come in drink form, as well as lolly form," she told Newshub. 

The Government seems to have ignored the advice in the document. Kiwis will vote in a referendum about legalising cannabis in 2020, and the proposed regime includes edibles and lotions. You'd be able to buy them from shops. 

Justice Minister Andrew Little suggested the document was just one piece of advice the Government had been given about cannabis-infused products. 

"You might have read one document, but you haven't seen all of the advice, and what I'm saying is the decision by Cabinet was a decision on a set of principles that was about maximum control and regulation."

Officials also told Little that prohibition has failed to stop cannabis use and doesn't address the harm it causes, especially for Māori, saying in 2016/17, a quarter of all Māori adults had used cannabis, compared to just 12 percent of the general population.

Māori are also four times more likely to face charges for cannabis use or possession than anyone else, according to the Ministry of Justice. 

"Changing the regime has the potential to change all of that, and the level of criminalisation that goes with it," Little told Newshub. 

Bennett disagreed, saying the focus should be on educating people who are using cannabis.

"To be supporting Māori and for those who are using marijuana, we do not have to be legalising - we could be educating."

The Government wants full control over the cannabis market to curb black market sales, but ultimately it all comes down to whether Kiwis want a legal market at all.