The proposed rules
The referendum will ask you whether you support the Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill. The bill sets out rules for growing, selling, buying, and consuming cannabis, including cannabis products such as cannabis oils.
Possession, shops and cafes
Cannabis would be legal to possess and consume
People would be allowed to consume cannabis on private property or at specially licensed cafes, and possess up to 14 grams of dried cannabis in public.
Cannabis would only be legal for people over the age of 20
Only people over the age of 20 would be allowed to buy, sell, grow, possess or consume cannabis. There would be no criminal convictions for people under 20 found in possession of cannabis, but they might be required to attend an education session, social or health service or be required to pay a small fee or fine.
Cannabis would be sold at special shops
Only those 20 and over would be allowed to enter cannabis shops. The shops would only be allowed to sell cannabis products and accessories. They would not be allowed to sell alcohol, tobacco or food. The shops would not be allowed to publicise that they sold cannabis and would have to keep products where they cannot be seen from outside the shop.
Cannabis could be used at special cafes
Special cafes would allow people to use cannabis away from home. The cafes would have to provide food and drink but would not be allowed to sell alcohol or tobacco. Some would be BYO and others would sell cannabis. Smoking or vaping cannabis would not be allowed inside at these cafes. The cafes would need a duty manager, like any premises which sells alcohol.
People would be allowed to grow two plants each and share cannabis
A household could have up to a maximum of four plants. Plants would have to be kept out of sight or not be accessible from public areas. It would be legal to share up to 14 grams of dried cannabis with someone aged 20 or over.
Advertising would be banned and labelling and packaging would be controlled
Advertising, sponsoring and promoting cannabis products or businesses would be banned. Cannabis businesses would be allowed to label their products with their company name.
Labels would have to show the amount of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol – the main psychoactive compound in cannabis) and CBD (cannabidiol – a non-psychoactive compound), as well as how the product compares to the daily purchase limit (14 grams).
Plain, anti-tamper, and child-resistant packaging would be required. Depending on other legislation there may be other requirements such as transparent or opaque packaging. Packages would have health warning labels.
A new authority would grant licences to growers, sellers and testing labs
The Cannabis Regulatory Authority (the CRA) would be set up to oversee everything to do with the cannabis market. The authority would grant licences for farms, laboratories, shops and cafes, and would be required to approve certain products for sale. The authority would collect a levy and licensing fees. Money from the levy would be put towards services to reduce cannabis harm.
Price and potency would be controlled
Cannabis sellers would not be allowed to discount cannabis or give it away for free. Rules would be set by the authority about how much THC (tetrahydrocannabinol – the main psychoactive compound in cannabis) would be allowed in cannabis for sale.
Cannabis would be taxed
The government would collect an excise tax on cannabis according to weight and potency.
The system would be aimed at reducing harm from cannabis
The bill is designed to reduce harm by raising public awareness about the risks of cannabis, promoting health and support services, and making the focus of breaches overall harm reduction rather than punishment.
The CRA would make a national cannabis plan
The CRA would create a national plan every five years. This would address the size and allocation of the national production cap, public education campaigns, cannabis use research, and other harm reduction strategies. The CRA would have to consult with regional and cultural representatives as well as experts.
Cannabis sales would help fund harm reduction services
A levy on cannabis would help pay for the harm reduction services identified in the national plan.
Licences would be required to produce, test and distribute cannabis
The CRA would be responsible for reviewing and deciding on licence applications. There would be three types of licences.
Production licences would be required at every part of the cannabis supply chain up to sale to retailers. Distribution licences would be required to operate retail and consumption premises. Testing licences would be required to carry out testing as required by the CRA (for example, checking potency, quality, or quantity of cannabis). No one would be allowed to hold more than one type of licence at once.
There would be restrictions on who could hold a licence
Licence holders would have to be 20 years or older, reside in New Zealand, and be a fit and proper person to hold a licence. The CRA would assess if the person is capable of complying with and carrying out the licence.
Some serious offences would disqualify an applicant from receiving a licence – generally drug-related offences that would not be legalised by the Act, such as selling cannabis to a minor. Less serious offences related to cannabis would need to be considered but would not automatically disqualify someone. The CRA would have to balance a number of factors in assessing previous offending of this type, including the seriousness of the offence, recidivism, how old the person was, and so on.
Communities disproportionately affected by cannabis and local circumstances would be considered when granting licences
When granting licences to cultivate cannabis, the CRA would have to consider how well the granting of the licence would achieve the goals of representing or partnering with communities disproportionately affected by cannabis (particularly Māori and economically deprived areas), providing employment and career opportunities to those groups, and generating social benefit and community building.
For distribution licences, the CRA would have to consider any local circumstances and policies. They would be able to consult with local groups and take submissions on any licence applications.
Some things would still be illegal
It would still be illegal to consume cannabis in public, possess more than 14 grams of cannabis in public, grow more cannabis plants at home than the individual or household limit, grow cannabis in public, expose people under age 20 to cannabis smoke or vape, sell or supply cannabis without a licence, import or export cannabis, supply cannabis by mail order or courier, or breach the conditions of a licence.
Read the government’s summary of the Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill
Read the government’s list of frequently asked questions
Read the Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill (pdf)
Read the Chief Science Advisor’s Report on Cannabis Legalisation