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New Zealanders will know exactly what they are voting on at next year’s cannabis referendum with the release of the Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill (‘Cannabis Control Bill’) by Justice Minister Andrew Little today.

The Government has outlined the details of its cannabis legalisation model, which prioritises public health and safety, introduces a government-licensed production and retail market, and puts controls around use. The detailed release has been welcomed by the Drug Foundation.

“New Zealand is recognised globally for progressive and pragmatic policy that is forward looking and solves problems. We continue to have some of the highest cannabis use in the world, despite government spending for decades in law enforcement. Prohibition is failing us and it’s time for a new approach. The Government’s proposed cannabis law set us in the right direction,” said Ross Bell, Executive Director.

“Any new approach must put public health and safety at the centre, which is exactly what the Cannabis Control Bill does, and is why we are endorsing a “yes” vote at the referendum,” said Mr Bell.

Earlier this year, the government released an overview of its legal cannabis model, including restricting sales to people aged over 20 years and banning public consumption and advertising. Today’s announcement provides much greater detail including:

  • Tax levies collected from a new industry will be redistributed to harm reduction activities
  • Products are required to be clearly labelled and potency will be regulated and controlled
  • Police resources will be redirected to focus on more serious crime, breaking the illicit model and minimizing criminal exposure to youth
  • Sales will be restricted to those aged 20+ years
  • Driving under the influence will remain illegal
  • Government will control the supply chain to minimise harm.


“One of the most important proposals is the cannabis tax levy that will allocate funds for drug education and treatment programmes. Legal control of cannabis destroys a powerful revenue stream for criminal activities, and will fund prevention and harm minimisation initiatives.

“The Cannabis Control Bill also puts strong public health and safety controls over the supply chain, including limits on the potency, display, distribution, sale and price of cannabis products,” said Mr Bell.

The government’s model has drawn from tried and tested initiatives from the US and Canada, and includes recommendations made by public health organisations including the Drug Foundation.

“By listening to the evidence and analysing what has worked for other countries globally, we believe that New Zealand can be at the forefront of a drug policy that focuses on public health. We are confident about the Bill’s health credentials, and we are endorsing a yes vote in the 2020 Cannabis Referendum.

“We’re expecting the government to release the full and final bill early next year, so voters can be assured they will have the information they need to reach an informed opinion.

“Now it’s up to us to engage in this conversation with our family and friends; get informed, show up on the day and make your vote count,” said Mr Bell.

Read the media release from Justice Minister Andrew Little: Referendums website and initial cannabis Bill launched (2 December 2019)

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