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Regulating cannabis - a challenge we are more than up to

MoS march 2019 regulation small scale

To legalise or not to legalise. It’s often presented as a yes/no question, but in reality, there are countless policy options, each meeting a range of competing goals. Kali Mercier sets out some options and debates some of the key contentious issues.

Before you start reading, this article is best viewed as a PDF.

Despite the potential for getting lost in the detail, we think it will actually be pretty easy to come up with a coherent model that meets the most important goals of our communities. We’ve plenty of examples to choose from (and steer clear of) from jurisdictions that have legalised overseas. And we can also draw heavily on our own successes and failures in Aotearoa regulating alcohol, tobacco and psychoactive substances.

The government has announced that a referendum on legalising cannabis for personal use will be held alongside the 2020 general election. The referendum will be binding. And it will hopefully be backed up by a bill setting out the proposed regulatory model so people know the detail of what they are voting for. As the government designs the model, we will be doing everything we can to influence it from the perspective of our underlying principles for reform.

We’d like to see extensive consultation and public education programmes take place as part of this process. It’s vital that we have the contentious debates early on to ensure the proposed model has wide-ranging public support.


For a discussion of the following topics, download the full article in PDF form.

  • Public health-focused principles for the regulation of cannabis
  • Growing and selling cannabis
  • Should we allow home grow as part of a regulated market?
  • How do we ensure Māori equity?
  • How should we decide on an age limit?
  • Do we allow edibles and other products?
Aassortment of sweet cannabis-infused edibles, from cereal bars to cookies to chocolate.
Cannabis treats: the possibilities are endless - but should they be allowed?
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