Cannabis referendum explained: What Kiwis will vote for or against

In September, Kiwis will decide who they want in Government. But they will also have to answer another important question - should recreational cannabis be legalised?

The referendum question was announced last year as the below:

Do you support the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill? 

New Zealand's cannabis referendum question and answers
Which way would you vote? Photo credit: Newshub.

The proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill was released in early December, outlining what Kiwis can expect if recreational cannabis was legalised.

The Bill, written by a team selected by Justice Minister Andrew Little, outlines the following: 

Age

  • The use and purchase of cannabis would be R20.
  • It would be a criminal offence to provide to anyone under 20.

Potency

  • The level of THC (one of cannabis' psychoactive components) in products would be set at 15 percent. 

Advertising

  • A complete ban on cannabis advertising and restrictions around the marketing of products

  • In the marketing and retailing of cannabis products, messages encouraging health and harm minimisation would be mandatory.

Consumption

  • Consuming cannabis would be restricted to private homes and specifically licensed premises.

Buying/selling

  • Cannabis would only be able to be bought in physical stores, as opposed to online

  • The sale of edibles and cannabis concentrates (substances that include only the most potent plant compounds) would be regulated

  • Edibles could be made at home, but not concentrates
  • Kiwis would be allowed to grow two plants at home, with a maximum of four plants per household
  • "Social sharing" would be allowed, which means cannabis could be shared among those of legal age

  • Kiwis would not be allowed to import cannabis unless done by a Government-licensed wholesaler
  • Kiwis would be restricted to buying 14 grams of cannabis a day.

Drug Foundation executive director Ross Bell believes the legalisation of recreational cannabis would benefit patients who need cannabis for medical reasons.

"Let's say the medical cannabis scheme is too strict, there are fewer products and the products that are available are very pricey - then the referendum becomes important."

New Zealand's medical cannabis scheme, which aims to give patients better access to medicines came into effect in April. The scheme allows GPs to prescribe CBD, as well as New Zealand-based growing.

However, Bell is still concerned about cost.

"A major barrier is still in place, being the cost of medicines, which face major hurdles in obtaining Pharmac or other price subsidies," he wrote on the Drug Foundation's website.

"We know that when patients are not able to obtain medicines from the formal scheme they will buy from the informal, illicit market, and face the risk of criminalisation."

Although in favour of the referendum, Bell has voiced his concern about the set potency limit of 15 percent. He has suggested the Government lower the limit to 6 or 7 percent. 

Family First national director Bob McCroskie is strongly against legalising cannabis for recreational use, as he believes it is harmful to the brain.

"This is not a 'war on drugs' - it is a defence of our brains. It is a fight for health and safety," he wrote on his organisation's website.

Family First is behind the 'Say No to Dope' campaign, which aims to encourage families to vote 'no' in the upcoming referendum.

Family First's 'Say Nope To Dope' billboard
Family First discourages voting for the legalisation of cannabis with their 'Say Nope To Dope' campaign. Photo credit: Supplied / Family First

However, McCroskie believes CBD medicine could be an "exciting" alternative.

"I think there is promise cannabidiol medicine can be an alternative to opioids that aren't beneficial. That doesn't mean you need to legalise it," he told Newshub.

Bell says those critical about legalising cannabis need to understand the current approach is harmful.

"People are getting criminal records, a lot of money gets wasted on law enforcement, police should spend their time doing other things," he says.

"We don't fix these issues by keeping cannabis illegal."

Contact Newshub with your story tips:
news@newshub.co.nz