New Zealand reveals legal pot laws ahead of 2020 referendum

A referendum on whether New Zealand should legalize recreational cannabis is coming up next year, and in preparation, the country has released draft legislation with the rules of legal weed.

The draft Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill was revealed Tuesday.

It proposes the legal age of recreational cannabis consumption and possession should be 20 years old or older, and users cannot buy more than 14 grams of dried flower per day. 

An individual can only carry 14 grams of flower in a public space as well, and are allowed to grow up to two plants in their home, or four if there is more than one resident over 20 years old in one location.

Use of cannabis would be limited to private spaces, such as homes or licensed establishments, and banned in public spaces. Cannabis also cannot be sold where alcohol and/or tobacco is sold or consumed.

Sales will be limited to physical retailers as well — there will be no online shopping.

Similar to Canada, New Zealand proposes a complete ban on marketing and advertising of cannabis products, and the products must feature warning messages of their potential harm.

New Zealand has also proposed that there must be a limit on the amount of THC in recreational cannabis products, though that limit has not been defined yet.

Finally, New Zealand has opened the door to cannabis edibles from Day 1, unlike Canada, which took a year to legalize edibles after initially legalizing flowers and oils.

Notably missing from the bill is licensing requirements for cultivation, harvesting, processing and manufacturing cannabis products, but they should be added by early next year.

The early release of the draft bill is part of an education campaign led by Justice Minister Andrew Little to fight misinformation and manipulation before the referendum.

The referendum question was also revealed for the first time, with a possible “yes” or “no” answer.

The question will be: “Do you support the proposed Cannabis Legislation and Control Bill?”

“By making the referendum questions and the initial draft Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill available early the intention is to encourage public awareness and discussion,” Little said. “It is important that the public feel they can meaningfully participate in the referendum process.”

An official referendum website has also been set up which Kiwis can visit for trusted information on the vote.

Little says he hopes to have the final draft bill done by early next year, and the proposed rules are not final but open to change given feedback. The next step in the process is a meeting Thursday between Little and Parliament representatives to discuss feedback on the draft bill.

A Horizon poll in November showed that 48 per cent of Kiwis support recreational legalization, while 38 per cent do not. That is up from 39 per cent in the yes camp in August 2019, but down from 60 per cent in November 2018.

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