The New Zealand government has a plan to legalize and regulate cannabis, and it wants to know what the public thinks. Next year, it will be up to voters to decide whether they’re for or against recreational legalization as proposed in the draft legislation. Lawmakers plan to introduce a final, more detailed draft of the bill at the start of 2020. That final version will take into account public feedback on the draft released December 3. At the moment, New Zealand wants the public to consider the basic parameters of the legalization proposal. Government officials hope the early release of the draft bill will encourage public awareness and debate on the issue of recreational legalization.

New Zealand Encourages Public to Participate in the Legalization Process

Next year, New Zealand voters will have the chance to vote on a referendum asking whether the recreational use of cannabis should be legal or not. The referendum question is a simple yes or no: do you support the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill?

To make that decision, New Zealanders will need to be informed about the core elements of the draft bill. While still a work in progress, particularly concerning regulatory details, the draft version still paints a fairly clear picture of what recreational weed will look like in New Zealand.

Those core elements would set a minimum purchase, possession and use age of 20. Cannabis consumption would be limited to private homes and premises with cannabis-use licenses. Persons interested in privately cultivating and sharing cannabis would need to meet certain conditions and limits on their grows, such as a two-plant cap. And businesses would face a ban on marketing and advertising, while also being required to provide harm reduction messaging in their retail operations.

The bill would also limit the sale of cannabis to physical retail locations alone. In other words, consumers would not be able to purchase cannabis online or order it remotely. The proposed licensing regime would give the New Zealand government control over all stages of the supply chain, as well as limit the amount of cannabis that manufacturers and cultivators can produce.

In a press release announcing the release of the draft legalization bill, Justice Minister Andrew Little said “the primary objective of the legislation is to reduce overall cannabis use and limit the ability of young people to access cannabis.”

Public Debate an Important Step in Long Legalization Process

Despite the rough outlines of the overall recreational legalization plan, there are still many finer points to figure out. A summary of the current policy positions on legal and regulated marijuana show that New Zealand plans to set purchase limits and potency limits on THC products. But there’s currently no indication of what those limits will be. Furthermore, the policy summary indicates plans to regulate the sale of cannabis “accessories,” how much cannabis a person can gift, public possession limits and more.

These and other limits, regulations and restrictions, along with taxes and penalties, are all up for public scrutiny and debate. That’s why it’s so crucial for New Zealand voters to familiarize themselves with the proposed legalization plan, and more so, to get involved in the process of revising and improving the bill.

“Yes” Vote on Legalization Will Introduce Bill to Parliament

A more than 50 percent “yes” vote on the recreational referendum won’t automatically legalize cannabis in New Zealand. Instead, it will initiate a process to introduce the bill to Parliament for another round of debate and revision among lawmakers. But ultimately the end result of that parliamentary process will be legalization.

A more than 50 percent “no” vote, however, would block recreational legalization in New Zealand. Medical cannabis and hemp, which are currently legal under New Zealand law, would not be affected by a “no” vote on the recreational referendum.

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