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The cannabis referendum in New Zealand is drawing a lot of attention from around the globe, even though it is one that is non- binding. This referendum is scheduled for the 17th of October 2020, but online voting started as early as 3rd October. On the same day the general election will be taking place. Voters will be using their vote to either support or oppose the proposed “Cannabis Legalization and Control Bill”.
As mentioned, this referendum is non-binding and will therefore not change the legality of medicinal cannabis or hemp both of which are legal under the current law. It will also not change the nuances such as the illegality of driving or going to work under the influence of cannabis. If a yes vote is passed, the bill will still need to go through parliament for a final vote.
Is Cannabis Legal in New Zealand?
Medicinal cannabis is legal in New Zealand. However, the recreational use of it remains illegal. This might change should the referendum pass a yes vote as this will set the pace for parliamentary debate.
Personal possession of any amount of cannabis is illegal in New Zealand and regulated under the Misuse of Drugs Act of 1975. Possession of cannabis attracts a fine of $500 or a 3 months prison sentence.
Possession of more than 100 joints or 28 grams of cannabis attracts a heftier fine as this is presumed to be a commercial venture. This is punishable with up to 8 years imprisonment. On the other hand cultivation of cannabis attracts a maximum of 7 years imprisonment.
New Zealand has a medicinal cannabis scheme that regulates access to medicinal cannabis. Currently, patients can only access these products from other countries where cannabis cultivation has been legalized. Consequently these products are usually very expensive. The scheme will help to bring down the cost of medicinal cannabis treatment in the country.
Currently, smokable cannabis products are not allowed. However, dried products, oils, and tables can be easily accessed through the scheme.
What is the New Zealand Cannabis Referendum?
In 2017, the Labor Party and the Green Party made an agreement to hold a referendum to determine whether the personal consumption and cultivation of cannabis should be legalized. They agreed that this should be done on or before the 2020 general election.
Cannabis Referendum Structure In New Zealand
Voters will be asked one pertinent question during this referendum and will have two options to choose from. The proposed question is expected to read:
“Do you support the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill?”
Voters will answer either yea or nay to this this referendum question. That is, yes I support the proposed cannabis bill or no I do not support it. After the referendum this matter will still be voted upon by the parliament which will have the final say over the matter.
Should this referendum be adopted the Cannabis Legalization and Control Bill will create the new regulatory framework for the cultivation, processing, and sale of recreational cannabis in New Zealand. Following, a new oversight body known as the Cannabis Regulatory Authority will be established to regulate the industry.
The following provisions will be included in the bill:
- Minimum legal age for the possession and use of recreational cannabis will be set at 20 years
- Legal adults will be allowed to possess a maximum of 14 grams of died cannabis at any given time
- Legal adults will be allowed to grow a maximum of two mature cannabis plants for personal use. Households will be allowed up to 4 mature plants regardless of the number of adults living in that house
- There shall not be any marketing or advertising of cannabis products
- Cannabis use for recreational purposes will be limited to persona l residences or licensed premises
- There shall not be any remote or online sales of cannabis for recreational purposes
- Cannabis taxation shall be implemented on the recreational market
Will The Cannabis Referendum In New Zealand Pass?
A Twitter survey that was conducted in July 2009 to August 2020 found that most people had a positive regard of cannabis and were therefore in support of the cannabis legalization bill. However, other polls have shown conflicting results. This creates suspense and it will not be until the D-Day that the true sentiment on marijuana legalization will be clear for all to see.
For now, campaigns for the referendum are ongoing and are very similar to that of a general election. As usual, there will be no campaigns on the referendum day or within a 10- meter radius. The campaigns are scheduled to run from 18 August to 16 October 2020. The campaigners need to be registered with the Electoral Commission and are only allowed a maximum expense limit of $338,000.
The vote counting will be supervised by the electoral commission and preliminary results released on 30th October 2020. Official results should be out by 6th November which will be a week later. Tensions remain high as we eagerly await the outcome of the cannabis referendum in New Zealand.