Binding referendum on cannabis in 2020

The Government has left it as late as possible but have now confirmed there will be a referendum on personal use of cannabis alongside the 2020 general election. I’d have preferred it sooner but at least this allows for proper legislation to be agreed on by Parliament (if this is how it is decided it will work, and pending the referendum result) and for a proper debate to take place.

There have been some complaints )for example from Simon Bridges) that it is a cynical distraction from the next election but I’m sure people are capable of deciding on multiple decisions at the same time. It will still be much simpler than a local body election.

RNZ:  Binding referendum on legalising cannabis for personal use to be held at 2020 election

It’s not actually clear what the referendum will be on.

Justice Minister Andrew Little says the Electoral Commission will now get on and start planning for it.

“Having made the decision now, the Electoral Commission has put together a budget bid for the budget process next year. So … we’ll now process that budget bid. It obviously will attract budget confidentiality, so we’ll know about that next May.”

Chlöe has been doing a lot of work in helping this happen.

We will have to see how this will work, but it is a big step in the right direction.

National Party leader Simon Bridges questioned the government’s motivation for holding the referendum at the same time as a general election.

“I’m pretty cynical that you’ve got a government here that wants to distract from the core issues of a general election like who’s best to govern, their actual record in government over the last three years, and core issues around the economy, tax, cost of living, health, education, law and order.”

FFS, we can deal with more than deciding which politician is the least dweebie and lame, or which party is up with changes on drug laws happening all around the world. .

And he said the government had already effectively decriminalised cannabis through the medicinal cannabis bill.

“Now you’re allowed loose leaf out on the streets and the truth is they’ve said to police, you don’t need to prosecute this so right now, if someone’s smoking cannabis outside a school what are the consequences? What’s the message?”

This is a pathetic attempt at scaremongering, nearly as bad as Bob McCoskrie.

Bridges may pander to people most likely to vote national anyway, but he risks alienating a lot of swing voters, and especially younger voters (voters under 70).

There is obviously no guarantee which way the vote will go, but at least this means that people should get to decide. At last.

Leave a comment


  1. Kitty Catkin

     /  18th December 2018

    I am cynical about the timing; but I hope that people can work out that it’s a bribe. It may be an own goal if the antis turn against the Coal, which they well may.

  2. NOEL

     /  18th December 2018

    No decriminalisation option?
    Simple Yes/No on legalisation?

    • I hope that some decent legislation is written that includes clear controls on supply and sale (if any sales are allowed), and the referendum is a binding Yes/No on the legislation.

      Brexit has shown the dangers of having a general Yes/No referendum followed by endless arguments over what and how.

      • Griff.

         /  18th December 2018
        NZ drug foundation .

        We advocate for a regulated market for cannabis, which keeps health interests central. There is already a regulatory system set out in the Psychoactive Substances Act 2013 that could be modified to accommodate the development of a cannabis market. The purpose of that Act aligns perfectly – it aims to regulate the availability of psychoactive substances to protect health and minimise harm.

        We propose that licensed premises would sell only cannabis, cannabis-related paraphernalia and plant seeds. Businesses would be prohibited from selling alcohol and tobacco alongside cannabis to minimise the risk of compounding harms or creating new cannabis markets.

        The locations and opening hours of licensed premises would be strictly regulated. There would be no retail outlets near schools, for example. Communities would have a say in whether premises were permitted in their areas.

        Workers in cannabis shops would have training in health issues relating to cannabis, such as keeping an eye out for signs of dependency. Only those over 18 would be allowed entry, and all products would be stored securely behind the counter.

        From a purely health perspective, setting the age limit at 20 or even higher would be the best option. However, this would create avenues for a black market to flourish, as a large percentage of those who already use cannabis are between the ages of 18 and 20. It makes sense to align the cannabis age with the legal alcohol purchase age and then focus on minimising harm through health interventions.

        See our Model Drug Law page for more details.
        Drug policy spectrum: Diagram from the Global Commission on Drug Policy.

        The alternative to prohibition does not have to be a free commercial market. There is a whole spectrum of different policy options, as shown by this diagram from the Global Commission on Drug Policy.

        We do not want to encourage the development of a wide range of cannabis products, as this could encourage new users, especially young people. It would go against public principles to allow THC gummy bears for sale or for people to sell special brownies at farmers’ markets, for example. Therefore, if edible products are to be available, these should be licensed for sale on a case-by-case basis. A licence could only be issued if manufacturers demonstrate a low risk of harm and meet other criteria.

        We also want to keep profits in communities and stop Big Cannabis from gaining a stranglehold on the market. We would therefore restrict farm size by keeping each grower below a maximum number of plants. A government body would license all suppliers, but the number of suppliers and amount of product produced would depend on the market. We support supply models that will enable disadvantaged regions to benefit from growing cannabis. This could be done by keeping licensing requirements simple and inexpensive and helping current small-scale suppliers move from the black market into a regulated market – for example, by providing pre-approved packaging and assisting with taxes and forms.

        A levy would be taken at the point of sale, with the money collected going back into covering administration costs as well as education, treatment and prevention programmes. Our model also provides for people to grow their own plants. We think three plants per adult, with a maximum of six per household, would be a reasonable number. There is no science to setting a limit on the number of plants allowed. Some jurisdictions – such as Washington State – allow none, while others allow six or more. Our compromise of three plants would allow people to grow enough for their own needs but not so much that a black market would be created.

        It is worth noting that, in New Zealand, people are allowed to grow tobacco and brew their own alcohol, but very few people actually do either. We envisage the situation would be the same with cannabis once the novelty of growing plants at home wore off. Restricting advertising is a key way to reduce demand for a product, so we support plain packaging with health warnings, limited shop frontage advertising, no advertising outside licensed venues and no sponsorships or gifts. We don’t envisage seeing The Cannabis Shack netball or rugby team.

        We want to avoid the product looking too glamorous and exciting. At the same time, we do not want it to be so standardised that the black market steps in to fill already-existing niche requirements for products. For those reasons, it is important the growers can establish brands by displaying their logos and information identifying the provenance of the cannabis and its effects.

        Licensed premises would be required to display public health information prominently, explaining to people how to moderate use and detailing how to access help for drug-use issues.

        There would be a limited online market, possibly organised similarly to a Trade Me page. Obviously, there are risks that those under 18 could seek to purchase online, but these can be guarded against by ensuring that the person who accepts the product delivery is the same person named on the credit card used for the purchase.

        Another option would be using a RealMe account to prove identity. Even in a legal market, there need to be penalties for not sticking to the rules.

        Once again, the Psychoactive Substances Act already provides a good model. This would mean those selling cannabis to people under 18 could be fined up to $5,000, while under 18-year-olds buying cannabis would face fines of up to $500. There would be penalties for manufacturing or selling without a licence and for making misleading licence applications.

        The government would control cannabis prices to restrict demand – as it does for alcohol and tobacco. We suggest minimum pricing as well as a regime of levies that would be earmarked to fund treatment services.

        We have learned from regulating the tobacco industry that keeping prices high is one of the key ways to reduce use. Cannabis would be taxed according to its potency. Those using higher-potency products are most at risk of harming themselves, so consumption of high potency products would be moderated by higher prices.

        The NZ Drug Foundation supports regular reviews of the law to ensure it is working and not having negative health impacts.

        As well as improving health and reducing the long-term harm and stigma of convictions, our approach makes economic sense. A Treasury official in 2016 calculated that legalising cannabis would save $400 million a year on drug prohibition enforcement and reap an extra $150 million in tax revenue.

    • Griff.

       /  18th December 2018

      No decriminalisation option?
      Decriminalization leaves the supply in the hands of the black market funding gangs and exposing youth to not only the product but the criminal underworld.
      For years it has been easier for kids to buy pot than it is for them to access alcohol and ciggys due to cannabis being black market and others under a legal framework that restricts the sale to minors.
      In a fully legal regime there is opportunity for the goverment to tax the product to recover health costs and reduce the opportunity for youth to access the drug.

      legalize, tax, regulate and educate is the best option to minimize both harm and the costs to society.

      I would hope that the referendum information stresses that we would implement the same sort of regime we have for alcohol …age limits, restricted outlets, restrictions on advertising and retail sale sites, no sale of amateur production etc.

      • Gerrit

         /  19th December 2018

        I share your hope Griff

        –“I would hope that the referendum information stresses that we would implement the same sort of regime we have for alcohol …age limits, restricted outlets, restrictions on advertising and retail sale sites, no sale of amateur production etc.”–

        I will vote NO purely on the notion that legalisation needs controls on how much one can smoke or otherwise ingest before not being allowed to drive a car for example.

        How much can an airline pilot ingest before flying?

        Until the guidelines, controls and measurement infastructure is in place, it must remain a NO for me.

        At the moment one can be prosecuted if your blood contains illegal substances after causing an injury accident (road, work, or home).

        We set legal limits volume ingested of legal drugs and I would like to see those published and enacted into law before changing my vote to YES.

        • Griff.

           /  19th December 2018

          You can not be prosecuted for having an accident because of intoxication with the present drug testing for cannabis.
          That is bullshite put out by the drug testing company’s.
          The same as the p residuals testing industry fear mongering to generate business.

          Having the metabolites from THC in your system is not evidence for intoxication so would not stand in court for cannabis use being the cause of an accident .

          The risk factor for driving after using cannabis is about 1.25 x a sober control.
          To plaice that in context for alcohol at the lower blood alcohol limit of 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood the risk is 2x for the higher limit 80mg/100ml its 4x.
          Pot smokers usually overcompensate for being intoxicated behind the wheel drinkers lose inhibitions and drive much more dangerously.

          We already have high user rates.
          Making it legal result in little change in usage most who what to smoke already do.

  3. I thought they were going to run it prior to the Election.. BUT likely the Govt. are thinking it will get more younger folks, out to vote, for both the reeferendum & the general election too.

    Stats show the 18-24yr age group had the lowest voter turnout in recent years ?! :/

  4. PartisanZ

     /  18th December 2018

    Hate to say so but I predict a Shirtcliffe-like, Christian-Conservative, highly funded ‘NO’ campaign leading up to the Election/Reeferendum …

    Without a provision for ‘home-grow’ in legislation the Black Market will continue in some form or other.

    And home-grow has always been the biggest bugbear …

    Consecutive governments wouldn’t allow home-grow even if it was guaranteed to prevent World War III or the sky falling in.

    We seem to have an eminently sensible NZ Drug Foundation …?

  5. kluelis

     /  19th December 2018

    A “refeer”- rendum
    on cannabis use
    Get the dope
    on dope
    on our blog post 🙂

  6. Reply

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