Government unveils draft law for cannabis legalisation


The Government has released the draft legislation that would govern the growth, sale and use of recreational cannabis should New Zealand vote ‘yes’ in next year’s referendum, Laura Walters reports

The Government has released the draft cannabis legislation ahead of next year’s referendum, with an emphasis on harm reduction, education, and with a view to implementing a strict but pragmatic regime.

The bill means New Zealand would fall somewhere between the more state-controlled, anti-profit regime in Uruguay, and the recently enacted Canadian model, which does allow for private companies to grow, distribute and sell cannabis and cannabis products.

The draft bill, which was released on Tuesday, does everything Justice Minister Andrew Little previously signalled, including restricting possession and use to those 20 years and over, and putting strict controls around a licensing regime for both manufacture and sale, while also restricting advertising and taking a harm reduction approach.

“The primary objective of the legislation is to reduce overall cannabis use and limit the ability of young people to access cannabis,” Little said.

Some of the things yet to be worked through are workplace drug testing regulations and drug driving regulations and testing.

Some parts of the regime would not be decided solely by the Government through the legislation. Instead a regulatory body, along with an advisory committee and an appeals body, would make decisions on things like what cannabis products (such as different sorts of edibles) could be legally sold, and who could gain a licence to manufacture and sell.

The amount each person could purchase would be limited to 14 grams per day – which is the weekly consumption of a regular user.

Those who wanted to grow their own plants for personal use would be restricted to two plants per person, or four plants per household.

Along with the restrictions of age and amount, other key components include: a ban on all marketing and advertising of cannabis products; harm minimisation messaging in the retailing of cannabis; limiting consumption to private homes and specifically licenced premises; limiting sale of cannabis to specifically licenced physical stores (not online or remote sales); strict controls and regulations on the potency of cannabis; a state licensing regime, meaning all stages of the growing and supply chain are licenced and controlled by the Government; and limits to the amount of cannabis that is allowed to be grown.

The referendum is a promise from the Green Party-Labour confidence and supply agreement, and both Little and Greens co-leader James Shaw said this was a delivery on that commitment.

Little said the plan was to put forward the strictest bill possible, in order to restrict access to young people, control potency, and focus on harm reduction and education.

The types of products and the aesthetic of retailers could not be those that appealed to young people, or drew them in.

Little said they had learnt lessons from the mistakes of big tobacco and big alcohol when it came to monopolising or dominating a market, and creating big commercial enterprises that had the ability to do more harm.

The Government, along with iwi, had talked about the importance of restricting market size in order not to repeat these mistakes.

That meant there would be limits to the amount a licence holder could grow, and there would be mandatory separation between wholesalers and manufacturers, and retailers.

While the Government said it did not have estimates on the amount of tax it expected to raise, the model would be a progressive excise tax according to potency levels – this was similar to the alcohol regime in New Zealand. However, a study by the New Zealand Drug Foundation estimated it would return up to $250m a year in tax.

Meanwhile, a levy would be ring-fenced and directly fund harm reduction work and education programmes. The administration and monitoring costs would be covered by licensing fees.

NZ Drug Foundation executive director Ross Bell said this draft legislation ticked all the boxes. It was thorough, it focused on harm reduction and it gave New Zealanders some clarity.

Source: Newsroom

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