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New Zealand Government Unveils Cannabis Legalization Bill

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New Zealand voters will see a cannabis legalization measure on Election Day next year. The details of the measure have been highly anticipated, and New Zealand’s government unveiled some of those details today.

So far only two countries have legalized cannabis for adult use. Those countries are of course Uruguay and Canada. A number of other nations have held significant discussions regarding cannabis legalization, however, New Zealand appears poised to become the third country to legalize cannabis for adult-use.

It’s possible that another country, such as Luxembourg, could legalize cannabis for adult-use prior to Election Day in New Zealand next year, but regardless of if that happens or not, legalization will get a vote in at least one country in 2020.

Hopefully, that vote is favorable. Below is a press release that New Zealand’s government published today regarding the unveiling of the cannabis legalization measure’s details:

The first release of public information on the two referendums to be held at next year’s General Election was made today with an informative new Government website going live.

Additionally, the draft Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill has been released, showing the strict controls on cannabis that will apply if the voters choose to legalise cannabis.

The first cross-party meeting on the Cannabis Bill will occur later this week.

“It is important that voters go into the 2020 General Election informed about the referendums. The Government is committed to a well-informed, impartial referendum process.

“By making the referendum questions and the initial draft Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill available early the intention is to encourage public awareness and discussion. It is important that the public feel they can meaningfully participate in the referendum process.

“I have invited representatives from each party represented in Parliament to meet with me this Thursday to provide their feedback on the draft Bill”

“My aim is to have the final draft Bill available by early next year, so there is time to argue for change,” says Justice Minister Andrew Little.

The wording of the cannabis referendum question has also been confirmed as a straight Yes/No question:

Do you support the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill?

Yes, I support the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill

No, I do not support the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill

The wording of the end of life choice referendum, previously announced, is also a straight Yes/No question:

Do you support the End of Life Choice Act 2017 coming into force?

Yes, I support the End of Life Choice Act 2017 coming into force
No, I do not support the End of Life Choice Act 2017 coming into force

The website, provides information on the draft Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill and the End of Life Choice Act.

The website sets out key features of the draft law for the Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill.

“The primary objective of the legislation is to reduce overall cannabis use and limit the ability of young people to access cannabis,” Andrew Little said

Key restrictions on cannabis included in the draft Bill include:

  • A minimum purchase and used age of 20;
  • Ban on all marketing and advertising of cannabis products;
  • Requires harm minimisation messaging in the retailing of cannabis;
  • Prohibits consumption in public places and limits use to private homes and specifically licence premises;
  • Limits sale of cannabis to specifically licenced physical stores (not online or remote sales);
  • Strict controls and regulations on the potency of cannabis;
  • Establishes a state licencing regime that all stages of the growing and supply chain are licenced and controlled by the Government, and will limit the amount of cannabis that is allowed to be grown.

In order for the 2020 cannabis referendum to be effective, the public need to know what will happen afterwards. A ‘No’ vote would mean continuation of the status quo. In the event of a ‘Yes’ vote, the parties making up the Government have committed to honouring voters’ choice at the referendum.

The new website also provides information on the End of Life Choice Act, which is also the subject of a referendum at the next Election.

As the legislation has already been through the House, a 50 per cent majority voting “Yes” at the Election will mean that the Act will come into force twelve months after the result is known.

Further information on each of the referendums, including downloadable fact sheets translated into multiple languages, will be added to the website next year.

Explanatory material on both referendums, will also be included in the Electoral Commission’s enrolment update and EasyVote card mailouts to voters in the lead-up to next year’s election.

“Experience from overseas tells us that provision of factual, explanatory information is vital for the public to be informed and for an outcome that can be accepted by voters even if the result is not what they voted for,” Andrew Little says.

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