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Yes/No question on cannabis referendum at 2020 election to be based on draft legislation that proposes users must be 20+

Yes/No question on cannabis referendum at 2020 election to be based on draft legislation that proposes users must be 20+

The Government has detailed what the public will vote on in a cannabis referendum at the 2020 General Election.

Cabinet has agreed there will be a simple Yes/No question asking voters if they support a draft piece of legislation that will propose:

  • Making it legal to buy recreational cannabis from licensed and registered retailers
  • Making it legal to use recreational cannabis in licensed premises or private property
  • Requiring recreational users to be 20 or older
  • Banning the advertising of cannabis products
  • Regulating private cultivation
  • The rollout of a public education programme

While Justice Minister Andrew Little said the referendum was binding "because all of the parties that make up the current Government have committed to abide by the outcome," a new government could modify the bill or refuse to pass it.

National leader Simon Bridges said he would have to see the bill before deciding whether he would support passing it if elected at the 2020 election. 

The Green Party's Chlöe Swarbrick said having the proposed law developed and released ahead of the referendum was key. However the Greens had wanted to see legislation passed through Parliament before the referendum, so it was ‘self-executing’ with a majority yes vote.

"We didn’t gain consensus on that step," Swarbrick said.

"As it is, a yes vote will be informed by a clear regulatory regime set out in draft legislation that people will know and understand. We will avoid any potential of a ‘Brexit’ situation because people will know exactly what the future holds, and how these changes will be implemented.”

National's spokesperson for drug reform, Paula Bennett, had a go at the Government for spinning the issue to make it sound like the referendum was binding. 

"While legislation will be drafted, it won’t go through the House, meaning Parliament won’t have the opportunity to improve the legislation through the Select Committee process, expert advice and public submissions," she said. 

“It is too early to be having a debate about legalisation. We should have waited to see the evidence from Canada who only legalised in October. Since a referendum has been promised, we believe the public should have as much information and certainty as possible. This option does not deliver that.”

Little said officials were drafting legislation with stakeholder input. The Electoral Commission would draft the referendum question to appear on the ballot.

“The Coalition Government is committed to a health-based approach to drugs, to minimise harm and take control away from criminals," he said.

“The referendum is a commitment in the Labour-Green Confidence and Supply Agreement, as well as a longstanding commitment from New Zealand First to hold a referendum on the issue."

Here is the paper considered by Cabinet. 

Little confirmed there would be no other government-initiated referendums at the next election. This rules out the possibility of a referendum on the shape of the electoral system, which had been previously mooted. 

However if Act's End of Life Choice Bill passes the parliamentary process, a referendum at the 2020 general election is likely to be required to seal the law change.

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About time. The age limit is a bit rich though given 18 year olds can buy alcohol.

That should also be increased to 20. Many politicians have lamented that they voted to reduce it to 18.

It would be interesting to see if Jenny Shipley thinks it was a retrograde move to lower the age to 18 given she's had time to think it.

True enough. When I started drinking the age was 21 but we all started well before that in locations where we knew we could get away with it. So nowadays does that translate to 15/16 year olds doing the same. Not an expert and not experienced either, but not sure about the use of dope as a common supply. Society seems to have more than enough problems with alcohol already as the drug of choice and availability one would suggest.

It's all smoke and mirrors

Ha. The knives will be out for different reasons!

I will vote to legalise it. Chasing users is a total waste of Police resources and it just pushes up pricing and funds gang activity. Just make it legal so you can grow a couple of plants in your back yard. I don't smoke the stuff but it cannot ever be as bad as cigarettes. Sure your going to get wasted people on the road driving cars but your already getting that and repeat drunk driver alcoholics anyway.

I'll vote yes and my primary reason is that if people can't get legal cannabis they will use other things instead, like synthetics, which are worse for your body and of much less certain provenance than a plant that can be grown and therefore has some certain known characteristics.

Legalise it. The proceeds from both the tax revenue and combined savings (courts, prisons, police) will be significant, should be carved out and put into mental health welfare for all New Zealanders.

Carlos and to all others who are commenting on this stream - tobacco causes a huge amount of health harm and costs the country hundreds of millions, just as the other legal drugs do, so why would we legalise yet another to do more harm?

The only reason there is not more substantial evidence of the real extent of harm that cannabis causes is because it hasn't seen the widespread use that tobacco and alcohol have.

If it must be legalised, then we should create a licence to smoke (doesn't matter what substance) just like driving, and a part of the requirements of that licence would be to exclude oneself from the public health care system for the consequences of the habit.

Hypocrisy is a reason in itself.

"Smoking and drinking are bad drugs that cause massive social harm but we will let you consume those and even make money from your misery... But God help those f**king stoners, scum of the earth!"

As for your claim Cannabis is not widely used therefore we don't know the "real harm" it causes. I don't know what rock you are living under but Cannabis is everywhere, and stoners are not the ones dying from cancer or slapping the missus around when their team loses. Ask a cop or ED nurse what is the drug that causes the most harm to families and society and alcohol wins hands down.

I disagree that stoners are everywhere. they are not, but tobacco smokers are. I also used to work in quality at a DHB and I well remember discussing with the head of mental health there that their opinion was that a significant contributor to the state of their clients was regular cannabis use.

I agree that the other drugs are harmful, but that does not justify adding another to the problem matrix.

Stoners (


Smokers (

Indicate numbers not so different. Especially when many stoners would have ticked the no box as they believed it was a trick to trap them (paranoia is a side effect... or so I have heard).

Sure some stoners may have a propensity to mental health issues. But that does not indicate causation. And still nowhere the harm caused by alcohol. See 18% of Police Budget on alcohol! If cannabis is legal what do you think the Police budget will be for Cannabis crime (fights = zero, crashes = zero (just a few tickets for driving 20kms in 50 km zone), rapes = zero, domestic violence = zero)



So you are saying because it is less harmful than the other drugs we should legalise it? Funny kind of logic!

You are completely ignorant of the industry, try looking up Med Men. No one smokes, it's all patches, sprays and edibles. It has become very sophisticated with Apple store type experiences.

It's just one reason. The primary reason that cannabis should be legal is that in a free society a person should be able to consume whatever they like if it causes little or know no harm to the consumer and no discernible harm to society.

You seem to accept that more harmful drugs should be legal (e.g. tobacco and alcohol) but draw the line at cannabis (a far less harmful drug). That's what I call a "funny kind of logic".

All the harm you are worried about happens already. Anyone who wants to smoke will get hold of it very easily, legalisation will take the supply and control of this good out of the black market and into a regulated, responsible, and taxed industry. Other countries have not found that legalisation leads to a long term increase in use.

That's enough to convince me, if you need more have a think about what the impact of a criminal conviction for young people who only wanted a smoke does to their long term prospects and ability to contribute to society. Also consider the policing and incarceration costs involved in ruining their lives for the sake of a teenage rebellion.

I say legalise it for every purpose except you must submit to a drug test before commencing work.
Thee srtikes and your'e outa here.You get a DCM.

How recent does the use have to be for a drug test to come out positive? Would you think it a problem if an office worker had a smoke on a Friday night?

Cannabis tests don't reflect impairment and an employer may find it difficult to sanction an employee for consuming a legal drug if impairment cannot be proven.

The employer would need to combine the test with a physical one e.g. like the cops do making suspected stoners stand on one leg or by waving a pizza slice in front of them and seeing if they bite.

It would be a problem if my airline pilot had a smoke on Friday night.

The only option is mandatory drug and alcohol testing for all employees with zero tolerance. Employers are responsible for providing a safe working environment and that includes drug and alcohol.

Driving people again into the arms of the "P" dealers etc, but then I suppose as it would not register the same as cannabis, you'd be perfectly happy for your pilot to have indulged in some of that on Friday night?

What? The pilot would still be impaired when they flew Monday morning?

Whose your dealer? I want some of whatever they are selling!

It is well understood that cannabis remains in the system for two weeks or more after usage. How much impairment that causes is largely an unknown I think?

In system does not equal impairment. Cannabis is stored in a persons fat cells so remains in a person's body well after the effects have passed.

As to impairment of pilots, no evidence of impairment after 48 hours of pilots smoking.


That is far from being the only option. An alternative is to treat people like adults, and test when there is a reason to believe an employee is unable to perform their job properly.

If i.'m paying the persons wages then i would expect that person to be free of drugs/booze.My money so i decide.

If it does not impair their work what's it to you? You're their employer not their parent.

I'll vote to legalise MJ, but it certainly impair's people's performance on many metrics. It'll still be illegal to be intoxicated with MJ and drive.

Sure, If an employee shows up stoned then nail them. But if they had a puff two weeks ago on a Friday night and have showed up to work with no issues since day dot why would you nail them if a random drug test indicates they had a smoke two weeks ago?

Impairment versus cannabis being present in a person's system (which could be weeks or even months ago with the effects having dissipated in 1 day) are different issues. Unless you just don't like people who smoke cannabis.

When you employ someone, you only control them during work hours. They are allowed to make their own personal life decision so long as they don't affect their work. If you want more control than that, you are looking more along the lines of slavery than employment.

..ha ha .. So each and every one of us rocks up an hour or two early to join the queue for the drug test. And the testers would need to come even earlier to be tested before they start work .....glad you didn't write the referendum.

not hours - weeks early as it stays in your system for a very long time!

In relation to comments on age the proposed age of 20 is sensible. The reason being relates to brain development. In fact we should also look at that for alcohol.

Growing for private use does need to be restricted, but that restriction could be like in Northern Territory where I believe they are allowed to grow 3 plants for personal use. That keeps out commercial grow operations.

It would be good to see people not ending up in prison because they have some weed and are not white. We could also stop wasting time on the police flying around in helicopters wasting a small fortune so they can harvest weed growing wild in the middle of nowhere. It would also stop the police from bringing back 100 kg of weed with only 100 grams being destroyed without someone inhaling it.

The most satisfying part of this referendum is the chance to cut off significant amounts of income for criminal organisations.

My 2p is it's a no brainer to legalise it.

But I'm interested to see how the vote goes given so many older people will most likely vote against it and they're the majority voters and younger people are so lackadaisical about voting.

Really the responsibility lies on the younger generation to hang out with their parents or grand parents, smoke a huge blunt and listen to some Snoop Dogg.

About time (I dont use it) it will help those in pain and take away the criminal trade and give us GST. Just do it "sensibly" through licenced dealers/shops just like alcohol. My only slight concern is maybe it should be 25 when the brain has fully developed.

I'd imagine it'll become much like alcohol, those under whatever age restriction will still use/source it somewhere, but at least that 'somewhere' carries a higher likelihood of being cultivated under controlled, safe and regulated conditions

The extensive/intensive use of weed is a real no brainer.
As is legalisation.
Certainly should help the prison budget in the following years.

I would not legalize it. As most people at the cold face in the health system say it does a lot of harm. I have also witnessed it in some of my old friends. One, a long term user's brain and personality is so stuffed, he is not worth talking to. The cannabis available these days is many times stronger so heaven knows what the long term affects will be. Having not legalized it, I would however not pursue it as a criminal matter. I would instead have a blanket instant fine system as for speeding and use the money generated to provide good medical services to treat users. Even the Greens say it is bad stuff and that all they want to do is treat it as a medical problem instead of a criminal one. My proposal pretty much ticks all those boxes and provides the necessary disincentive to partake. Or, are they really wanting to push full legalization under the guise of decriminalization?

This triggers a sly smile on my face as I compare the above update, to Brexit. Run the referendum first (powered by hype and non-truths) and then face the reality of legislation that is unpopular, inefficient and impractical to execute?
Instead, (I hope) our politicians can construct a sensible proposal, a change in direction regarding cannabis policy that doesn't have major flaws - and let us vote on it. Fingers crossed.

During coalition negotiations the Greens finally had an opportunity get some good environmental policy concessions such as a Kermadec marine reserve and instead they squandered this opportunity on getting a dope referendum.

Legalisation should be accompanied by drug/alcohol education from early high school.
We have a generation or two, including politicians, who believe cannabis is either harmless, a panacea or an essential vitamin.
Comparison with alcohol is "whataboutitis); 100 wrongs don't make a right.
From the web
Increasing efforts should be directed toward delaying the onset of cannabis use by young people, particularly given the recent trend of younger ages of cannabis-use initiation in the United States and evidence that fewer adolescents believe that cannabis use is associated with serious health risk (42). In the present study, the most persistent adolescent-onset cannabis users evidenced an average 8-point IQ decline from childhood to adulthood. Quitting, however, may have beneficial effects, preventing additional impairment for adolescent-onset users. Prevention and policy efforts should focus on delivering to the public the message that cannabis use during adolescence can have harmful effects on neuropsychological functioning, delaying the onset of cannabis use at least until adulthood, and encouraging cessation of cannabis use particularly for those who began using cannabis in adolescence.