Cannabis referendum: Annual tax-take of more than $1 billion if legalised - report

Reports obtained by Newshub show the annual tax-take if cannabis is legalised would be more than $1 billion.

The two in-depth reports by Business and Economic Research Limited (BERL) show what the cannabis industry would look like in New Zealand if the drug was legalised. The non-binding cannabis referendum is being held at the election.

If it were legalised, the cannabis industry could employ about 5000 people and earn the Government almost $1.1 billion in taxes each year.

NZ Drug Foundation executive director Ross Bell hopes the tax revenue is reinvested back into cannabis.

"A tax take to government which can be reinvested back into health and education," Bell said.

Aucklanders Newshub spoke to who are voting 'no' in the referendum say they aren't swayed by the $1 billion figure.

"I don't care about the money - I care about children, I care about the next generation," one said.

"I don't think the government should make money out of drugs," another said.

BERL's report also estimates there could be over 400 cannabis stores across New Zealand.

Whangarei would have 11, 125 would be located in Auckland, 14 in Hamilton, seven in Gisborne, 27 in Wellington, 25 in Christchurch, nine in Dunedin and two in Queenstown. A further 117 stores would be scattered across rural townships, bringing the total to 419 stores.

It's also estimated that 120 tonnes of legal cannabis would be produced each year.

BERL believes 50 tonnes would be produced by three large growers, up to 60 tonnes across 20 smaller growers, and the remaining 10 tonnes grown by many micro-cultivators who can grow a maximum of 100 kilograms.

Currently, Kiwis consume about 74 tonnes of cannabis a year, but if it's legalised, that could shoot to 103 tonnes a year.

There would be an extra 140,000 people using in the short term, but that would drop down with time it's expected.

But even if cannabis is legalised, Kiwis would still use 20 tonnes of illegal weed each year. Of this, eight tonnes would be consumed by underage people - those younger than 20.

"It's great that this independent analysis has come out now, to inform voters," Bell said.

The reports also detail how much profit a retail cannabis store would make - more than half a million dollars a year.

The Ministry of Justice wanted to wait until after the referendum to release the reports. It's asked Newshub to stress the reports are the views of BERL and not the Government, but they will be used by ministers to help create the legal cannabis industry if New Zealanders vote 'yes' in the referendum.