Summary of the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill

In this year's General Election, you can also vote in a referendum on whether the recreational use of cannabis should become legal.

This summary has been designed to give you a detailed overview of the Bill. Find out what the proposed law says about buying and selling cannabis, what sorts of products could be legal, what taxes could apply, and more.

This information is factual and impartial - and is based as closely as possible on the wording used in the Bill.


Contents of the Bill

About the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill

The Bill sets out a way for the Government to control and regulate cannabis. It proposes rules for growing, selling, buying, and consuming cannabis.

The Bill's main purpose is to reduce cannabis-related harm to individuals, families/whānau and communities.


Reducing harm from cannabis use

The Bill's purpose is to reduce cannabis-related harm to individuals, families/whānau and communities

The Bill would do 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.

Controlling access to cannabis

People aged 20 or over could buy cannabis

A person aged 20 or over would be able to:

  • buy cannabis, but only from businesses with a licence to sell cannabis
  • enter licensed premises where cannabis is sold or consumed
  • consume cannabis at a home or at licensed premises
  • purchase up to 14 grams of dried cannabis (or its equivalent) per day
  • share up to 14 grams of dried cannabis (or its equivalent) with another person aged 20 or over.

Growing, possessing and consuming cannabis

People aged 20 or over could grow, possess and consume cannabis

A person aged 20 or over would be able to grow 2 cannabis plants. The maximum number of plants per household is 4. Plants would need to be grown at home and out of sight, or not be accessible from public areas.

A person aged 20 or over would be able to possess up to 14 grams of dried cannabis (or its equivalent) in public.

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.

The Bill would prohibit people younger than 20 from growing, possessing and consuming 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.

People would get information about consuming and storing cannabis safely

Products would be labelled with information to support buying decisions, including health warnings and how the product compares to the daily purchase limit.

Good-practice guidelines, health promotion, awareness and education would support people to consume, grow and store cannabis safely.


Licensing, production caps and potency limits

Licensing requirements

Under the Bill, all aspects of the supply chain for cannabis would be regulated.

Everyone involved in applying for a licence would be assessed for suitability

An assessment would apply to all licence applicants, directors, and people overseeing cannabis operations under an authorisation. This assessment would consider their ability to comply with requirements, disqualifying factors, and any other factors which influence the person's suitability. Police vetting would be included in this process. Some less serious previous convictions will not, on their own, disqualify the person.

A cap on production would limit how much cannabis is for sale

A cap would limit the amount of cannabis available for sale in the licensed market. Licensed businesses would apply for a portion of the cap. The Authority would be able to adjust the cap each year as required. No licence holder would be able to hold 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. 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.

The cap could change over time and affect the amount of cannabis businesses would be able to supply to the market.

Part of the cap would be set aside for micro-cultivators (licensed businesses growing on a small scale).

Businesses allowed to grow cannabis would not be able to operate premises where cannabis is sold or consumed.

Potency limits and quality standards would apply

Potency (strength) limits and quality standards would be set for cannabis and cannabis products, and businesses would need to comply.

Cannabis products would have to go through an approval process before being released to the market. Higher risk products would have to go through a stricter process.

Products deemed to appeal to children or young people would not be approved.


Rules for premises where cannabis is sold or consumed

Age limit

A person must be aged 20 or over to enter, or work at, premises where cannabis is sold or consumed.

However, a person under 20 could be employed by a licensed cannabis grower or processor.

Trading hours

Minimum and maximum trading hours would be set for premises where cannabis is sold or consumed.

Local authorities would have power to restrict hours, within the minimum and maximum limits.

Restrictions on the appearance of premises

There would be restrictions on the appearance of premises. These would include rules against promoting the fact that cannabis is available for purchase inside.

Host responsibilities

People operating retail and consumption premises would need to:

  • ensure their employees have responsible host training (this would be compulsory)
  • display information about the legal requirements they must meet, including minimising harm and meeting their obligations towards people who may be impaired by cannabis consumption
  • comply with restrictions on the display of higher risk products.

People selling cannabis products would be responsible for ensuring the purchase limit is not exceeded.

Retailers would be banned from making false, misleading, or therapeutic claims, or displaying these claims within consumption premises.


Products that would be legal

What products could be bought and sold?

Licensed cannabis products would become legal in stages, starting with dried cannabis, fresh cannabis, cannabis plants, and cannabis seeds.

The Authority would have the power to authorise the introduction of other licensed products for sale, including concentrates and cannabis edibles, through regulations.

Some products would be banned

A number of licensed products would be prohibited, including:

  • 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.

People would be prohibited from feeding cannabis or cannabis products to animals.

Cannabis edibles would have to meet specific requirements

Cannabis edibles are cannabis products that are consumed in the same manner as food. They would be required to be solid at room temperature.

More specific requirements for cannabis edibles 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 conventional food production
  • they would be banned if they are found to appeal to children and young people.

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 to people under age 20
  • selling cannabis without a licence
  • importing or exporting cannabis
  • supplying cannabis by mail order or courier
  • breaching the conditions of a licence.

Limits on cannabis retailers

Selling limits

Cannabis retailers would only be able to sell cannabis, cannabis products, and cannabis accessories. Cannabis retailers would not be able to sell alcohol or tobacco, or conventional food.

Cannabis accessories would only be available through licensed cannabis retailers, with the exception of pharmacies selling accessories for medicinal cannabis under existing legislation.

Potency limits

Potency limits would exist for all licensed products to limit levels of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol - the main psychoactive compound in cannabis).

In setting potency limits, the Authority would take into account:

  • reducing problematic use and preventing overconsumption
  • providing consumer choice
  • the potency of illegal cannabis.

Product labelling

To help consumers make informed decisions, product labels would show:

  • the amount of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol - the main psychoactive compound in cannabis)
  • the amount of CBD (cannabidiol - a non-psychoactive compound)
  • how the product compares to the daily purchase limit.

Pricing

Retailers would not be able to sell cannabis or cannabis products at a reduced price, or give these away for free.

Advertising would be banned

Advertising, promoting, and sponsoring cannabis products and cannabis businesses would be banned. However, businesses would be able to label products with their company name.

Packaging requirements

The Authority would develop packaging requirements that discourage cannabis consumption, such as plain packaging and health warnings.

Packaging could not be targeted towards children and young people in any way.


Consumption premises

Places for consuming cannabis

The primary objective for consumption premises would be to provide lawful places to consume cannabis outside the home.

Consumption premises would have to:

  • provide information on how to consume cannabis safely
  • monitor and act appropriately to ensure customers follow safe practice.

Consumption premises would fall into 2 models:

  1. BYO (bring your own) consumption premises.
  2. Combined retail and consumption premises.

Consumption premises would be required to provide conventional food and drink. They would not be able to sell alcohol or tobacco. Smoking or vaping cannabis indoors at consumption premises would be prohibited.

Communities would have a say on licensing applications

Communities would be able to have their say on policies on licensed premises in their local area, and make submissions on licensing applications, noting the final decision rests with the Authority.


Cannabis taxes, levies and fees

Taxes, levies and fees would apply

An excise tax would apply and be collected when a product is packaged and labelled for retail sale.

This tax would be based on weight and potency. A higher rate would apply for more potent cannabis.

A levy, similar to that applied to alcohol and gambling, would fund services to reduce cannabis harm, as set out in a public health, drug education and treatment services strategy.

A licensing fee would recover the costs associated with administering and monitoring the licensing regime.


Who would oversee the cannabis market?

A regulatory body would be set up to manage the market

The cannabis market would be overseen by the Cannabis Regulatory Authority [holding name only] to ensure the rules are followed and cannabis-related harm is reduced.

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 and authorise 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 every 5 years.

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

  • organising a cross-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 use
  • promoting responsible use and help-seeking behaviours
  • collecting data and supporting research focused on understanding cannabis use in New Zealand.

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.

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.

The law would be reviewed

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


About voting in the cannabis legalisation and control referendum

What is the referendum question?

The cannabis legalisation and control referendum will give you the opportunity to vote on whether you support the proposed Bill.

The referendum 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

Note that medicinal cannabis and industrial hemp are not included in the proposed Bill that will be voted on in the referendum. Information about the Medicinal Cannabis Scheme and industrial hemp can be found at health.govt.nz.

Medicinal Cannabis Scheme

Regulations on using hemp in industry and as a food


What happens after the vote?

If more than 50% of people vote 'Yes'

If more than 50% of people vote 'Yes' in the referendum, recreational use of cannabis wouldn't become legal straight away. After the election, the incoming Government can introduce a Bill to Parliament that would make the 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'

If more than 50% of people vote 'No' in the referendum, recreational use of cannabis would remain illegal, as is the current law.

Medicinal cannabis and hemp will not be affected by the outcome of the referendum. Medicinal use of cannabis will still be allowed if prescribed by a doctor, and industrial hemp will still be legal.


Further reading to help you make your choice

More detail on proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill

You can download and read the Bill in full. You can also read frequently asked questions about the cannabis legalisation and control referendum, or download the 'Guide to the Bill', a technical summary document that provides more detail on the contents of the proposed Bill.

Read the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill in full

Frequently asked questions about the cannabis referendum

'Guide to the Bill' technical summary document


End of Life Choice referendum

At this year's General Election, you'll also be given the opportunity to vote in the End of Life Choice referendum.

Learn more about the End of Life Choice referendum