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Will New Zealand Legalize Cannabis?

NZ Weed Referendum

By ZacPublished 4 years ago 3 min read
Will New Zealand Legalize Cannabis?
Photo by Richard T on Unsplash

New Zealand has a referendum on cannabis legalization coming up later this year. Although thought as one of the more progressive countries worldwide, the current polls are not looking too optimistic.

There has been a lot of back and forth in support over 2020, with the current latest polls in early October showing a slight advantage for the 'yes' vote. Of course, these are just polls, and we'll have to wait a few more weeks to see the actual result finalized.

So what will the referendum actually change? Well, according to The THC Times, the referendum would allow anyone 20 years or older to using cannabis at home or in licensed premises. It would also allow people to grow 2 plants at home, and possess up to 14 grams of dried cannabis in public spaces.

The actual question on the referendum will be:

Do you support the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill?

Two options are available for answers, one being a "yes I do support", and the other being "I do not support". Should the referendum pass, adults will be able to buy cannabis, similar to some US states and Canada.

According to the NZ government website, people aged 20 or over will be able to:

  • buy up to 14 grams of dried cannabis (or its equivalent) per day only from licensed outlets
  • enter licensed premises where cannabis is sold or consumed
  • consume cannabis on private property or at licensed premises
  • grow up to 2 plants, with a maximum of 4 plants per household
  • share up to 14 grams of dried cannabis (or its equivalent) with another person aged 20 or over.
  • The referendum is intended to reduce harm for cannabis users, control the production and supply of cannabis, and control the potency of the plant. It would also introduce another revenue stream for the New Zealand government, as well as theoretically reducing the black market for cannabis sales.

    While the last point of reducing the black market for cannabis is often touted as a key purpose for legalization, in reality, this hasn't happened anywhere yet. In the United States, Canada, and Uruguay, the black market for cannabis is still alive and thriving. The main reason is the black market simply offers better prices. If a previous weed smoker already has a dealer that sells for half the price, often they will conclude that seeking black market cannabis is worth the risk.

    Should the New Zealand government's referendum receive more than 50% 'Yes' votes, cannabis would not be legalized straight away. Rather, it would be introduced through a Bill to parliament.

    The referendum is set to be held on October 17th, aligning with the next federal election. With only a week to go, it's still anybody's guess what the outcome will be.

    Should New Zealand legalize, it will become the 3rd country in the world to legalize recreational cannabis in full, behind Uruguay and Canada. The United States has currently only legalized in some states. Luxembourg has plans to legalize, however they are yet to be realized. This would be a historic moment for the worldwide cannabis community, bringing legal recreational cannabis out of the America's and into another part of the world.

    Of course, another thing this would do is put enormous pressure on Australia. The country's capital territory recently legalized earlier this year, however the rest of the country is yet to follow suit. Although Australia and New Zealand lie some 4,163km apart, they are very similar culturally and (somewhat) politically. Cannabis legalization is seen as a progressive stance, and countries are always competing against each other. Australia's current government may not be too warmed to the idea, but in time, they will be. The extra tax dollars are simply too appealing.


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