We answer some of the more frequently asked questions. Please contact us if your question remains unanswered.
The draft Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill details how the new cannabis law will look. A final bill will be released in early 2020.
Voters will be asked to vote yes or no to the question “Do you support the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill?”
The bill prioritises public health and safety and introduces a government-licenced production and retail market. It sets limits on personal use and restricts sales to those over 20.
Cannabis is the most commonly used illicit drug used in New Zealand. Fifteen percent of adults used cannabis in the past year, and 8.5 percent, or 330,000 adults, smoke cannabis at least monthly. Use is higher in Māori, young people and those in more deprived neighbourhoods.
In the last 10 years, 45,600 people were convicted of a cannabis offence, and 6,500 of those were sent to prison. In 2018, about 3,000 people received a conviction for cannabis offences in 2018, and around 60 percent of those were for low-level offences such as possession and use. The people convicted are mostly young, Māori, and male. Just one conviction has a major impact on someone’s life and their opportunities to get a job, travel and even credit.
Cannabis prohibition costs New Zealand a lot of money. In 2017/18 it cost $9.9 million to imprison people whose most serious offence was to do with cannabis – including 201 people on remand. The people on remand served a total of 10,804 days in prison, around 54 days per person.
Most people who use cannabis do so without causing much or any damage to themselves. But a small proportion experience negative impacts, and in some cases these can be severe. Impacts can include anxiety, depression, memory loss and mood swings. Cannabis can affect brain development and increase the risk of psychosis and other mental illnesses.
In other words, cannabis can cause harm - so our laws need to focus on reducing that harm, not increasing it as they do now.
Tightening public health regulations give our best chance at reducing cannabis-related harms. The Cannabis Control Bill proposes regulating potency, packaging, pricing and portion size. Public education campaigns will inform people about the harms from cannabis, and encourage people to consume less.
We might see overall cannabis use go up slightly, especially in the early days. Though, a year after Canada legalised cannabis, overall use is the same as before legalisation. And In US States which have legalised, cannabis use in young people has actually decreased.
The Cannabis Control Bill prioritises public health and safety and introduces a government-licenced production and retail market. Products will be clearly labelled, and potency will be regulated and controlled. There will be limits on personal use and sales will be restricted to those over 20. These regulations should mean harmful cannabis use will go down, especially over the longer term.
The Cannabis Control Bill encourages people to consume less often and consume less potent products. A levy will allocate funds for drug education and treatment, meaning those who are struggling with their use or are likely to run into problems down the track can get help.
The Cannabis Control Bill restricts cannabis sales to people over 20. The Government chose that age because they are concerned that cannabis can affect brain development and is particularly risky for younger users. Setting the limit at 20 strikes a sensible balance between limiting consumption by young people and recognising the advantages of allowing them access to products that carry health warnings and potency controls.
Drug driving will remain illegal. We are expecting the Government to invest some of the new cannabis levy into a public education campaign around drug driving, using some of the same techniques that have been so successful in changing behaviour around drunk driving. It’s likely more resources will go into testing drivers for impairment, for both drugs and alcohol.
Medicinal cannabis and adult use cannabis will have separate laws and regulations. Patients often need access to specific products, with different combinations of active ingredients, to help relieve their symptoms. In some cases, these products are likely to be very different from adult use cannabis products, and in others they may overlap.
People who currently use natural cannabis for therapeutic purposes, such as pain relief, will benefit from legal access. A legal regulated market should mean significantly lower costs for them, and better access. It’ll also mean they’ll no longer risk prosecution for using cannabis products.
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