New Zealand’s Justice Minister: No Plans To Decriminalize Cannabis

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Cannabis reform supporters across the globe had huge hopes in 2020 that New Zealand would legalize cannabis for adult use via a measure that was placed on the ballot by lawmakers.

Only two countries had legalized cannabis for adult use prior to the 2020 election in New Zealand (Uruguay and Canada), and with legalization stalling in Mexico, New Zealand was poised to become the third country to legalize.

Unfortunately, voters in New Zealand struck down the legalization measure, and cannabis prohibition remained in place. It was a lost opportunity for sure, but still a significant milestone with voters at least getting a chance to weigh in.

With legalization off the table in New Zealand for now, the focus amongst some activists shifted to decriminalizing cannabis, which does not seem to have the support of New Zealand’s government.

No Government Plans For Decriminalization

The bad news is that New Zealand’s Justice Minister Kris Faafoi made it clear that the government has no current plans to decriminalize cannabis right now.

However, the good news is that the Justice Minister also stated that his party would not oppose MPs voting for a decriminalization measure if it was part of a legislative measure.

With all of that being said, it’s not likely that a decriminalization measure will be introduced any time soon. It’s unlikely that a Labour Party member will introduce a bill because the party has made it clear that its position is ‘to respect the vote’ from 2020.

It is also unlikely that a Green Party member will introduce a decriminalization measure because the party clearly wants full legalization to happen as soon as possible, which is why it pushed the 2020 legalization measure.

Support For Decriminalization Is Significant

A poll was recently conducted by Labour Party pollster UMR for the Helen Clark Foundation. The poll found that 49% of respondents supported adult-use cannabis legalization, which is similar to other polls released prior to the 2020 legalization vote.

While 49% is obviously not a majority, let alone a super-majority, when the support for legalization is combined with decriminalization the number jumps to 69%.

A cannabis decriminalization referendum is not politically viable from a political will standpoint for whatever reason, however, a decriminalization measure is clearly popular among constituents and that’s something that lawmakers in New Zealand need to take note of.

Legalization will always be better than decriminalization, but decriminalization will always be better than criminalization. Currently possessing a personal amount of cannabis carries a potential fine of $500 and up to 3 months in jail in New Zealand.

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