Cannabis referendum: Proposed possession, purchase limits and supply details unveiled

The Justice Minister has revealed proposed recreational cannabis possession, purchase limits and supply details New Zealanders will be voting on whether to legalise in 2020. 

New Zealanders will be voting on whether to pass the draft Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill with a simple question put to all of us: "Do you support the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill?"

The country will also be voting on whether to pass ACT leader David Seymour's End of Life Choice Bill into law - which passed its final reading last month - that would legalise assisted dying in some circumstances. 

The Government has launched a website providing information on both pieces of legislation for the public to understand the referendums in the lead up to the election. 

Justice Minister Andrew Little said by making the referendum question and the initial draft Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill available early the intention is to encourage public awareness and discussion. 

"I have invited representatives from each party represented in Parliament to meet with me this Thursday to provide their feedback on the draft Bill."

The proposed cannabis law includes:

  • a minimum purchase age of 20
  • a ban on marketing and advertising cannabis products
  • a requirement to include harm minimisation messaging on cannabis products
  • not allowing recreational cannabis to be consumed in public and only in licenced places
  • limiting the sale of recreational cannabis to physical stores
  • controls on the potency of recreational cannabis being sold
  • a state licencing regime for recreational cannabis controlled by the Government

A Cannabis Regulatory Authority will be established to licence and authorise activities in the recreational cannabis supply chain and setting the conditions for licences and authorisations. 

It will also set limits on the allowable levels of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) - the principal psychoactive constituent of cannabis - and other substances in cannabis.

The authority will overlook production, testing, and labelling standards, and make sure retailers are meeting quality controls, as well as administering and collecting excise taxes and levies charged as part of the cannabis regulatory regime. 

What will you be able to do?

If you vote to pass the legislation, anyone aged 20 years or older may grow up to two cannabis plants. If two people aged 20 years or older are part of the same household, the property can have up to four plants. 

Grow more than you're allowed, and you could end up with a fine of up to $1000. The plants would need to be grown out of public sight. If you broke that rule, you could be fined up to $500. 

As for how much cannabis you could possess, the legislation would make 14 grams of dried cannabis the maximums amount you could hold in a public place. But that won't apply for the purposes of transporting it. 

That same 14-gram limit would also apply to how much you could purchase from a licenced store. And you'd be wise not to consume it in public, or else end up with a fine of up to $500. 

Anyone caught selling cannabis to someone under the age of 20 could face up to four years in prison and a fine of up to $150,000. It would also be illegal to supply cannabis by mail or courier, or else get a $500 fine. 

To import cannabis for recreational use, you'll need to apply to the authority to do so. If you import more than 14 grams without a licence, you could be hit with a two-year prison sentence or a $10,000 fine. 

Venues licenced to sell cannabis will be required to keep records of those who have purchased it, and companies that sell cannabis products won't be able to sponsor events. 

They will only be allowed to sell cannabis products that contain up to 14 grams of the product. The packaging must the quantity of THC, in milligrams. 

In Canada, people aged 18 or older (in some provinces 19) can possess up to 30 grams of cannabis, after the country's Parliament passed the Cannabis Act in June last year leading to recreational cannabis legalisation. 

Little has said one of the objectives of legalising recreational cannabis in New Zealand would be trying to get rid of the cannabis black market - a similar purpose Canada had. 

A Newshub-Reid Research Poll revealed in June that 48 percent of New Zealanders did not agree with legalising cannabis, while 41.7 percent of people thought it should be legalised, and 10.4 percent didn't know.

As for medicinal cannabis, the Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Amendment Bill passed its final reading in December last year, allowing terminally ill people to possess and use cannabis and utensils for medical purposes. 

The Ministry of Health recently told Newshub regulations will be in place by 18 December and a Medicinal Cannabis Agency will be operational by the middle of 2020.