The New Zealand government has released the draft of the Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill on a new website that went live yesterday.
The legislation, designed to govern the recreational cannabis market should it come into effect, shows the strict controls that will apply if the voters choose to legalise cannabis such as the minimum age and who can sell it.
The announcement was the first release of public information on two referendums to be held at next year’s general election. The first cross-party meeting on the Cannabis Bill will occur later this week.
The website, www.referendum.govt.nz , provides information on the draft Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill and the End of Life Choice Act.
“It is important that voters go into the 2020 general election informed about the referendums,” said Justice Minister Andrew Little, adding that they are committed to a well informed, impartial referendum process.
“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.
Little said he has invited representatives from each party represented in Parliament to meet with him on Thursday to provide their feedback on the draft Bill.
“My aim is to have the final draft Bill available by early next year, so there is time to argue for change,” he said.
Marketing to be banned, stores to require licence
The legislation has specified only individuals 20 years of age and older can use or purchase a recreational cannabis product.
It has also prohibited the consumption of cannabis in public spaces, limiting use to private homes and licensed premises.
Other key restrictions include the banning of all marketing and advertising of cannabis products; strict controls and regulations on the potency of cannabis and limiting the sale of cannabis to specifically licenced physical stores (not online or remote sales), among others.
According to the government’s announcement, a ‘No’ vote would mean continuation of the status quo. In the event of a ‘Yes’ vote, the parties making up the government have committed to honouring voters’ choice at the referendum.
The NZ Drug Foundation said they welcome the release of the draft which outlined the details of its cannabis legislation model that prioritises public health and safety.
“We continue to have some of the highest cannabis use in the world, despite government spending for decades in law enforcement,” said Ross Bell, executive director. “Prohibition is failing us and it’s time for a new approach.”
“The government’s proposed cannabis law set us in the right direction,” Bell said.
Bell said any new approach to the Bill must put public health and safety at the centre, which is exactly what the Cannabis Control Bill does, and which is why, he said, they are endorsing a “yes” vote at the referendum.”
Whakamana spokesperson Abe Gray, Cannabis academic and expert, said the draft “looks pretty good.”
“It is good to see the government focusing on the matter of adults making a choice and what is really key to that is being sure that people are making informed decisions,” Gray said.
Bell said they are expecting the government to release the full and final bill early next year, so voters can be assured they will have the information they need to reach an informed opinion.
“Now it’s up to us to engage in this conversation with our family and friends; get informed, show up on the day and make your vote count,” he said.