Andrew Little (Getty Images)

Cheat sheet: NZ cannabis legalisation bill, and the referendum question, revealed

The essential details on the plan to put the legalisation of cannabis to the public at the next election.


Let’s cut to the chase. What will the referendum question be?

A straight yes/no: “Do you support the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill?

What will be in the bill?

You can read it here.

TLDR, please.

The bill, or the CLCB as it may or may not become known, would make cannabis legal, but apply a range of controls, including to its manufacture, retail, purchase and consumption.

The draft bill includes restrictions such as:

  • Purchase and use restricted to those aged 20 and over. Purchase would be limited to 14 grams a day.
  • All marketing and advertising of cannabis products would be prohibited.
  • Retailers would be required to communicate “harm minimisation messaging”.
  • Consumption in public places will be banned, with use limited to private homes and premises licensed for the purpose.
  • Sale limited to licensed physical stores, with online or remote sales verboten.
  • Potency to be regulated.
  • A government licensing regime to be introduced encompassing every part of the growing and supply chain, with limits on the amount of cannabis grown introduced.

Edibles?

Would be legal. Expect opponents to get busy on “cannabis gummy bears”, etc.

What happens now?

Andrew Little, the justice minister, said he has invited members of all parliamentary parties to a session on Thursday.

A session?

A meeting. A meeting so they can “provide their feedback on the draft bill”. One way or another the bill will then go through the parliamentary process. “My aim is to have the final draft bill available by early next year, so there is time to argue for change,” said Little.

How will people know what they’re voting for?

The internet.

The internet usually is not very useful for knowing things.

Specifically, a government website: www.referendum.govt.nz. It will, said Little, provide overview and detailed information on both draft Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill and the End of Life Choice Act.

Said Little: “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.

Will that prevent a tide of misinformation from the more swivel-eyed participants in the debate?

Yes of course there will definitely be no misinformation from them.

What’s missing from the bill?

As noted in a cabinet paper, there are a number of details that need adding by early next year. Such as: “licensing requirements for cultivation, harvesting, processing and manufacturing, including the management of associated waste products; supervision, compliance and enforcement, and offences and penalties for non-compliance with the licensed and unlicensed (but still regulated) sphere, including provisions for young people; and the structure and allocation of the licensed market.”

Little has been busy today.

He has. The Duracell bunny of the New Zealand government has had two moments in the limelight. First there was the announcement that foreign donations would be curbed. Next came this bill.

What else did he say?

He said: “The primary objective of the legislation is to reduce overall cannabis use and limit the ability of young people to access cannabis.”

And: “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.”

Is he still calling himself Andrew Daddy Thicc Snacc Little on Twitter?

No. Let us speak no more of that.

What was the political path to this bill?

The referendum was agreed as part of the confidence and supply agreement between Labour and the Greens. There was a more general point in that about drugs being treated as a health issue, which has sort of happened since, but the firm, specific pledge that had to happen was a referendum on legalisation, at or by the 2020 election.

How’s polling looking?

It’s bounced around over the last two years, and the most recent survey had support rising again, to a point of near parity between the two positions. The survey also indicated an increasing divide on the issue along party lines, with National voters being much less likely to support legalisation, and Labour and Green voters being much more likely.

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How will it affect the election?

There have been suggested that it may favour the vote for parties on the left, the Green Party especially, by boosting numbers among those who tend to support the party. With another referendum being voted on at the same time (David Seymour’s End of Life Choice Bill) there’s plenty of reason to turn out.

Is it referendums or referenda?

It’s referendums. This is not Latin class and no correspondence will be entered into.


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