Blazed: Paula Bennett in parliament with 14 grams of Coromandel Gold (Oregano)

Revealed: the shocking volume of an intoxicating drug you can legally buy

There have been concerns raised about the limit of cannabis that would be purchasable daily under a legalised regime. But what about the other drugs?

Yesterday in the House of Representatives, Paula Bennett took to her feet and held aloft a bag (aka “baggie”) of herbs. It was oregano, reportedly, but the impeccable stagecraft had the galleries swept into the fiction: it was cannabis. It was 14 grams of the stuff, she explained, 14 grams being the proposed maximum daily purchase under the draft bill that could see cannabis become legal in New Zealand.

A minor melee ensued, prompting the Speaker of the House to say, according to the official record, “I am going to ask both the deputy leader of the National Party and the Minister of Finance to chill out.”

Bennett’s point, however, seemed clear: 14 grams is a lot to puff, and were you to smoke that much you’d be (a) off your nanas, and (b) probably get very ill.

In The Spinoff office we asked: is there any precedent for this permissive half-ounce indulgence? After a brief brainstorm we alighted on another regulated drug: alcohol. And we realised we didn’t know: how much alcohol can you buy at once? Not duty free, that’s different, but down your local liquor store?

I decided to find out. I went straight to the top: I phoned the Liquor King.

A full transcript follows.

Me: Hello, can you tell me please what is the maximum amount of beer or wine I can buy?

Liquor King: Ah. Ah. There is no maximum. Why do you …?

Me: What about for something stronger, like spirits. What is the maximum?

Liquor King: Ah … no maximum. Why?

Me: I just wanted to check. There is no legal maximum that you’re aware of?

Liquor King: Don’t think so. [The question] is usually the other way.

Me: So I’m not going to do this. But in theory I could come into the shop and buy all the stock in one go?

Liquor King: Yeah, like, if you were loaded, I guess.

Me: That’s useful, thank you.

Liquor King: A company bought 12 grand of shit the other day.

Me: Wow.

Liquor King: So there’s no cap.

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There’s. No. Cap. Wake up, sheeple. I, you, anyone could go down to Liquor King and assuming we meet the usual criteria (over 18, not inebriated, etc) go ahead and buy every last bottle of booze in there. Why is no one talking about this?

Illustration: Toby Morris

Asked what might happen to me if I consumed $12,000 worth of alcohol in one sitting, a medical professional, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Spinoff, “Is this some kind of joke? Obviously if you were able to drink it it would kill you.”

So a challenge to Paula Bennett, a challenge to politicians of all stripes, who have snoozed while this recklessly profligate law has been in place: next time you’re in parliament, hold up five million bottles of absinthe, because – who even knows – that could be what some 18-year-old just bought in one go, and perfectly legally, from their local bottle store.


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