Alongside the 2020 General Election, you will be able to vote in a referendum on whether you support the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill. A referendum is a vote on a proposal or issue.
The Bill uses words and language you might not be familiar with. It’s important you understand what you’re voting for in the referendum. The information below may help to explain the proposed Bill.
Browse this section to find the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions.
The question is:
Do you support the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill?
You can choose 1 of these 2 answers:
If more than 50% of people vote 'Yes' in the referendum, recreational cannabis wouldn’t become legal straight away. After the election, the incoming Government can introduce a Bill to Parliament that would make the recreational use of cannabis legal. This process would include the opportunity for the public to share their thoughts and ideas on how the law might work.
If more than 50% of people vote 'No' in the referendum, recreational use of cannabis would remain illegal, as is the current law.
The Medicinal Cannabis Scheme and industrial hemp are not part of the referendum. The Ministry of Health website has more information on medicinal cannabis and industrial hemp.
No. A Bill would need to be introduced and passed by Parliament before cannabis would become legal.
Under the Bill, licensed cannabis products would become available in stages over time — starting with dried and fresh cannabis, cannabis plants, and cannabis seeds.
The Authority would recommend the introduction of other licensed products for sale (for example, concentrates and cannabis edibles) which could then be approved through regulations.
A person would need to be 20 years or older to grow, possess or consume cannabis.
Yes. Under the Bill, a person aged 20 or over could grow up to 2 plants. If more than 1 person aged 20 or over lives in the same household, the maximum number is 4 plants per household.
Plants would have to be either:
A person could not be sold more than 14 grams of dried cannabis (or its equivalent) per day.
Yes - a person could possess up to 14 grams of dried cannabis (or its equivalent) in a public place or in a vehicle in a public place.
Some exceptions would apply, such as when moving from 1 permanent residence to another.
The Bill would establish that 14 grams of dried cannabis is equal to:
Product labels would include how the product compares to the daily purchase and public possession limit.
People would be able to consume cannabis in private residences and in licensed cannabis consumption premises.
A person could not consume cannabis in a public place, or in a vehicle that is in a public place.
Yes. While selling cannabis without a licence would be an offence, a person could give or share up to 14 grams of dried cannabis (or its equivalent) with another person aged 20 years or over.
Selling or supplying cannabis to any person under the age of 20 would be an offence under the Bill.
No. Cannabis could not be delivered by mail or courier.
No. Cannabis could only be bought from licensed cannabis retailers in New Zealand. Some licence holders would be able to import cannabis seeds.
A person under age 20 found in possession of cannabis would receive a health-based response such as an education session, social or health service, or they would pay a small fee or fine. This would not lead to a conviction.
Some things would be illegal, including:
The purpose of the Bill is to reduce harm from cannabis use by regulating and controlling all aspects of the supply chain, including growing, preparing, consuming, and selling cannabis in New Zealand.
The Bill does this by:
No. People younger than 20 would not be able to enter retail or consumption premises — even if they were with someone aged 20 or over.
Yes. Consumption and retail premises must appoint managers, who would:
Staff and managers would also have to complete training in harm-reduction messaging and in identifying impairment and problematic use of cannabis.
No. Licence holders and managers would make sure:
A person would be considered impaired if that person’s mental abilities, physical capabilities, or both, are observably reduced after they have consumed alcohol or other drugs.
Yes. Consumption premises would have to provide water and conventional food.
Yes. In addition to packaging regulations all retailers and wholesalers would display messaging at the point-of-sale that consuming cannabis is harmful. Harm-reduction messages and information about support services would also be on display.
The Bill includes provisions to educate people about the health impacts of smoking cannabis and ways to consume cannabis that do not involve smoking.
The Bill includes a specific provision to ban smoking and vaping cannabis in enclosed spaces in the presence of those under 20.
Second-hand smoke is a recognised health problem and is already addressed through the Smoke-Free Environments Act. The Bill aligns with the Smoke-Free Environments Act 1990.
The Bill allows the Authority to require that product labels state:
The Authority could also require packaging to have messages about the harmful consequences of using cannabis.
Yes. The Bill includes packaging regulations, such as standardised packaging, health messaging, and branding.
Packaging would also have to:
There would be a complete ban on advertising cannabis or cannabis products in New Zealand. The Bill would also ban promotion, sponsorship, promotional sales (discounting, sales, special offers, bulk purchasing), gifts, cash rebates, or entry into a contest, lottery or game.
Retail premises would be permitted to have a price list, and provide written or spoken information about the products they have available.
Companies would be able to put their name on packaging, but they would also have to comply with regulations that discourage use, provide health-related information, and inform customer choice.
Drug driving is already an offence under the Land Transport Act 1998. The Bill would not replace the existing law.
Other laws already cover working while impaired. The Bill would not replace existing laws.
Under existing law, employers and employees must make sure the workplace is safe. Employees must comply with any reasonable policy or procedure relating to health and safety, including a policy on alcohol and drugs.
Individuals and businesses would apply to the Cannabis Regulatory Authority [holding name only] for a licence to grow, produce or supply cannabis.
For more information, refer to the question 'What is the Cannabis Regulatory Authority?'.
An assessment would apply to all licence applicants and those responsible for cannabis businesses. The assessment has 3 elements.
1. A capability assessment:
2. Areas where the Authority would not be able to apply discretion:
3. Areas where the Authority would be able to apply discretion:
This assessment would include the use of police vetting.
The Authority would make decisions on where cannabis consumption premises and retail premises would be located, on a case-by-case basis.
Communities could be involved by:
Only cannabis grown by licence holders could be supplied or sold. A cap would set the quantity of cannabis that would be available for sale and supply in the licensed market. Access to the majority of the cap would be managed by allocating businesses a portion of the cap they are allowed to supply. The Authority could adjust the cap each year as required.
A portion of the cap would be set aside for small-scale licensed growers with a micro-cultivation authorisation.
No single business could supply more than 20% of the cap.
The Bill includes 3 guiding principles, which the Authority would apply when deciding which businesses would be given a portion of the cap. In addition to the Authority being satisfied that the applicant had the required capability to safely grow cannabis, the Authority would consider the degree to which the licence applicant:
Part of the cap would be set aside for micro-cultivators.
A micro-cultivation authorisation would be for licensed operators growing at small scale. Micro-cultivators would have to meet the same conditions and controls as larger operators, including production and quality standards.
Licence holders could only have 1 micro-cultivation authorisation. They would not be available to individuals or businesses that have been allocated a portion of the cap.
A person must be aged 20 or over to work at premises where cannabis is sold or consumed.
However, a person under 20 could be employed by a licensed cannabis grower or processor.
The Bill would establish a product approval process for all new products before they enter the market. The approval process would manage the risks associated with factors such as potency and contamination.
Regulations would state the minimum quality and production standards that cannabis products must meet.
If a holder of a consumption licence also held a retail licence, they would be able to sell cannabis products. If they only held a consumption licence, they would not be able to sell cannabis products and would operate as BYO (bring your own) premises.
Yes. An excise tax, based on weight, and potency, would apply when the product is packaged and labelled for retail sale. Higher-potency products will attract a higher excise tax.
Yes. A levy would be used to directly fund services to assist in reducing the harm caused by cannabis use.
The Bill would establish licensing and application fees to recover the costs of administering and monitoring the licensing regime.
Yes. Low-THC, high-CBD products that are not covered by the Medicinal Cannabis Scheme or industrial hemp regulations must follow the same standards as other cannabis products. This would include a ban on making health or therapeutic claims about the products.
THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is the main psychoactive compound in cannabis. CBD (cannabidiol) is a non-psychoactive compound in cannabis.
Cannabis edibles are cannabis products that are consumed in the same way as conventional food. They must be solid at room temperature.
More specific requirements for cannabis edibles produced under licence would include:
Cannabis beverages would be banned.
Under the Bill, the following licensed cannabis products would be prohibited:
The law would be enforced by the New Zealand Police, the Cannabis Regulatory Authority, and other organisations authorised by the Cannabis Regulatory Authority to do so. The division of monitoring and enforcement responsibilities is yet to be determined.
Yes. The law would be reviewed after 5 years of operating as a licensed regime.
The Authority would oversee the regulation of the cannabis market in a way that:
The Authority would:
The Authority would also have a role in promoting health-focused, compliant behaviour by:
The Cannabis Advisory Committee would be created to advise the Authority on:
Membership of the Committee would include representation of:
If a person disagrees with a decision made by the Cannabis Regulatory Authority, the person can ask the Cannabis Appeals Authority to review the decision. The Appeals Authority would have 3 members, including a lawyer.
You can download and read the Bill in full.
If more than 50% of people vote ‘Yes’ in the referendum, the incoming Government can introduce a Bill to Parliament to legalise and control cannabis. The normal Select Committee process encourages people to make submissions on the draft Bill.
The draft Bill gives you an idea how the law might work to help you decide how to vote in the referendum.
Explore the sections on this website to learn more about the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill and the End of Life Choice Act 2019.