Frequently asked questions

Find out more about the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill

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 referendum question and process

What question will I be asked when I vote in the referendum?

The question is:

Do you support the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill?

You can choose 1 of these 2 answers:

  • Yes, I support the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill
  • No, I do not support the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill.

What happens after the votes are counted?

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.

Medicinal Cannabis Scheme

Regulations on using hemp in industry and as a food

Would cannabis be legal straight away?

No. A Bill would need to be introduced and passed by Parliament before cannabis would become legal.

What would implementation look like?

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.


Buying, growing, and consuming cannabis

What would be the minimum age to buy and consume cannabis?

A person would need to be 20 years or older to grow, possess or consume cannabis.

Would people be able to grow their own 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:

  • grown out of public sight or
  • inaccessible from a public area.

How much cannabis would people be able to buy?

A person could not be sold more than 14 grams of dried cannabis (or its equivalent) per day.

Would people be able to possess cannabis in public?

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.

How would people know what is equivalent to 14 grams of dried cannabis?

The Bill would establish that 14 grams of dried cannabis is equal to:

  • 70 grams of fresh cannabis
  • 14 cannabis seeds
  • 210 grams of cannabis edibles
  • 980 grams of liquids
  • 3.5 grams of concentrates.

Product labels would include how the product compares to the daily purchase and public possession limit.

Where would people be able to consume cannabis?

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.

Would people be able to share cannabis with others?

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.

Would it be possible to buy cannabis online and have it delivered?

No. Cannabis could not be delivered by mail or courier.

Would it be possible to buy cannabis from overseas for individual use?

No. Cannabis could only be bought from licensed cannabis retailers in New Zealand. Some licence holders would be able to import cannabis seeds.

What would happen if a person under age 20 was found with cannabis?

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.

What would be illegal?

Some things would be illegal, including:

  • consuming cannabis in public
  • possessing more than 14 grams of cannabis (or its equivalent) in public
  • growing more cannabis plants at home than the individual or household limit
  • growing cannabis in public
  • exposing people under age 20 to cannabis smoke or vape
  • supplying cannabis without a licence
  • selling cannabis without a licence
  • importing or exporting cannabis
  • supplying cannabis by mail order or courier
  • breaching the conditions of a licence.

Reducing cannabis-related harm

How would the Bill reduce cannabis-related harm?

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:

  • providing access to legal cannabis that meets quality and potency requirements
  • eliminating the illegal supply of cannabis
  • raising awareness of the health risks associated with cannabis use
  • restricting young people’s access to cannabis
  • limiting the public visibility of cannabis
  • requiring health warnings on packaging and at the time of purchase
  • improving access to health and social services, and other kinds of support for families/whānau
  • making sure the response to any breach of the law is fair, encourages compliance, and reduces overall harm.

Would children and young people be able to enter cannabis retail or consumption premises?

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.

Would consumption premises be required to have a duty manager?

Yes. Consumption and retail premises must appoint managers, who would:

  • be on duty at the premises at all times when cannabis is sold, shared, or consumed
  • be responsible for complying with the law
  • operate the premises with the aim of helping to reduce cannabis-related harm.

Staff and managers would also have to complete training in harm-reduction messaging and in identifying impairment and problematic use of cannabis.

Would impaired people be able to purchase cannabis or cannabis products?

No. Licence holders and managers would make sure:

  • impaired people are not sold or supplied cannabis
  • impaired people are encouraged to remain on the premises until the immediate effects of cannabis wear off
  • no violent, quarrelsome, insulting, or disorderly conduct takes place on the premises.

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.

Would consumption premises serve food?

Yes. Consumption premises would have to provide water and conventional food.

Would health information and warnings be made available when purchasing cannabis?

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.

How would the Bill address harms caused by smoking?

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.


Packaging and advertising rules

What information would be on product labels?

The Bill allows the Authority to require that product labels state:

  • the product's equivalence to the daily purchase limit
  • the amount of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol - the main psychoactive compound in cannabis)
  • the amount of CBD (cannabidiol — a non-psychoactive compound)
  • a list of ingredients and their quantities
  • a list of harmful ingredients and their quantities, including any allergens.

The Authority could also require packaging to have messages about the harmful consequences of using cannabis.

Would there be rules around cannabis packaging?

Yes. The Bill includes packaging regulations, such as standardised packaging, health messaging, and branding.

Packaging would also have to:

  • prevent contamination of the cannabis
  • have a security feature so people know the package has not been opened before purchase
  • be child-resistant
  • not have any design features that appeal to young people
  • not contain more than 14 grams of dried cannabis (or its equivalent).

How would advertising of cannabis be controlled?

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.


Driving and working while impaired

How would the Bill manage impaired driving?

Drug driving is already an offence under the Land Transport Act 1998. The Bill would not replace the existing law.

Information about drug driving at transport.govt.nz

How would the Bill manage working while impaired?

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.

Information about drugs at work at employment.govt.nz


Licences and rules for commercial production and supply

Who would assess and administer licences to grow, produce, or supply cannabis?

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?'.

What criteria would people need to meet to get a licence?

An assessment would apply to all licence applicants and those responsible for cannabis businesses. The assessment has 3 elements.

1. A capability assessment:

  • capability to comply with licence conditions and financial requirements.

2. Areas where the Authority would not be able to apply discretion:

  • disqualifying conditions, such as previous licence removal and undischarged bankrupts
  • disqualifying convictions, specified, serious and relevant offices
  • less serious convictions which would not, on their own, disqualify a person.

3. Areas where the Authority would be able to apply discretion:

  • all other factors or convictions that can be considered to determine suitability.

This assessment would include the use of police vetting.

How would communities be able to have a say in where retail and consumption premises are located?

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:

  • taking part in the development of local licensed premises policies, including how close retail and consumption premises should be to schools, places of worship and other community facilities
  • making public submissions on licensing applications.

How does the Bill propose to manage the supply of cannabis?

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.

How would the quota be allocated?

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:

  • represents or partners with communities disproportionately harmed by cannabis
  • generates social benefit and builds community partnerships
  • promotes employment opportunities and career pathways.

How would licensed businesses with a micro-cultivation authorisation access a portion of the cannabis cap?

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.

Would people under 20 be able to work in the cannabis industry?

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.

What standards would cannabis products be required to meet?

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.

Would consumption premises be able to sell cannabis products?

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.


Taxes, levies and fees

Would cannabis be taxed?

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.

Would there be any levies?

Yes. A levy would be used to directly fund services to assist in reducing the harm caused by cannabis use.

Would there be licensing fees?

The Bill would establish licensing and application fees to recover the costs of administering and monitoring the licensing regime.


Types of cannabis products

Will low-THC, high-CBD products be covered by the same regulations?

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.

Medicinal Cannabis Scheme

Regulations on using hemp in industry and as a food

What is a cannabis edible?

Cannabis edibles are cannabis products that are consumed in the same way as conventional food. They must be solid at room temperature.

What restrictions would apply to licensed cannabis edibles?

More specific requirements for cannabis edibles produced under licence would include:

  • they must be restricted to baked products that do not require refrigeration or heating
  • they must be produced in separate premises to those used for food production
  • they would be banned if considered appealing to young people.

Cannabis beverages would be banned.

What cannabis products would be prohibited for licensed production and sale?

Under the Bill, the following licensed cannabis products would be prohibited:

  • beverages that include cannabis
  • products containing substances known to be harmful or to have harmful interactions with cannabis (such as alcohol and tobacco)
  • products designed to increase the psychoactive or addictive effects of cannabis
  • packaged dried or fresh cannabis containing roots or stems
  • products that involve ways of consuming cannabis that are higher risk, including injectables, suppositories, and products for the eyes, ears or nose.

Oversight and regulation

Who would enforce the law?

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.

Would the law be reviewed?

Yes. The law would be reviewed after 5 years of operating as a licensed regime.

What is the Cannabis Regulatory Authority? [holding name only]

The Authority would oversee the regulation of the cannabis market in a way that:

  • promotes the wellbeing of New Zealanders
  • reduces the harms associated with cannabis use
  • reduces overall use of cannabis over time.

The Authority would:

  • license, authorise and monitor controlled activities
  • set criteria and conditions for licences and authorisations
  • set THC (tetrahydrocannabinol - the main psychoactive compound in cannabis) limits
  • administer and collect excise tax, levies, and fees
  • prepare and publish a national plan, including a harm reduction strategy, every 5 years.

The Authority would also have a role in promoting health-focused, compliant behaviour by:

  • organising a whole-of-government approach to addressing non-compliance, which is health-based and focused on reducing harm
  • developing good-practice guidelines for home cultivation to help people comply with the law
  • raising public awareness of the harms associated with cannabis consumption
  • promoting responsible use and help-seeking behaviours
  • collecting data and supporting research focused on understanding cannabis use in New Zealand.

What is the Cannabis Advisory Committee?

The Cannabis Advisory Committee would be created to advise the Authority on:

  • developing the national plan, including the public health, drug education and treatment services strategy, which will be the basis for determining the levy
  • setting THC (tetrahydrocannabinol - the main psychoactive compound in cannabis) potency limits for cannabis products
  • informing the quantity of the cap on the total amount of cannabis put into the market under licence
  • other components of the regulatory regime based on emerging evidence and the expertise of members and on which the Authority seeks the Committee’s advice.

Membership of the Committee would include representation of:

  • iwi and Māori
  • specific population groups, such as children and young people
  • expertise from the health, justice and social sectors.

Can a decision by the Cannabis Regulatory Authority be appealed?

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.


Giving feedback on the Bill

Where can I read the Bill in full?

You can download and read the Bill in full.

Proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill

Can I have a say on the content of the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill?

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.


Preparing for 2 referendums in 2020

Where can I find more information?

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.

View printable resources about the cannabis referendum

Read the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill in full

Explore information about the End of Life Choice referendum

View printable resources about the End of Life Choice referendum

Frequently asked questions about the End of Life Choice Act 2019

Read the End of Life Choice Act 2019 in full