The cannabis referendum

The cannabis referendum

The cannabis referendum is about whether recreational cannabis use should be made legal. The referendum will ask you whether you support the Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill. The bill has been prepared to provide an idea of how cannabis legalisation might work. If the yes vote wins, the law won’t automatically change. It will still be up to the next parliament to decide whether to legalise recreational use of cannabis.

Why are we having this referendum?

Cannabis has been illegal in NZ since 1927, but was not widely used until the 1960s. Restrictions have increased since then, including through the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975.

Recently, medical use of cannabis products was legalised. But recreational use remains illegal, and there are significant punishments for growing, selling, and possessing cannabis, though possession in small quantities is not usually prosecuted.

The Green Party, which has advocated for drug law reform for many years, secured the referendum after the 2017 election as part of its confidence and supply agreement with Labour.

Supporters of cannabis legalisation say a cannabis market already exists underground, and legalisation would allow the government to regulate and tax that market while addressing the disproportionate criminalisation of Māori and contributing to the economy.

Opponents say legalisation would encourage more people, including young people, to use cannabis, which they say is harmful, and that greater cannabis use could cause more road accidents and workplace injuries.

The Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor says that the variety of cannabis regulations internationally, and the lack of time since they were introduced, makes the evidence around the impacts of legalisation uncertain.

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Party Positions

The parties' positions

ACT Party
No position
No promise to implement

ACT will honour the will of the people. We will vote with the referendum result at the first reading. However, we cannot commit to passing the law in its current form. That would ignore public submissions to the select committee. We believe in the parliamentary process. In principle, there is a strong case that prohibition is a failed policy. Evidence from North America is mixed on whether legalisation makes things better in practice. For this reason, ACT does not take a yes or no position.

Advance New Zealand
No response
Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis
Supports yes vote
Promises to implement

If we win the yes vote, the government has stated there will be further opportunity for submissions and comment on the new bill. The ALCP looks forward to this engagement as we have been involved with the cannabis community for 24 years. We believe we have got good sensible insight, into the needs of the structure required to make it work. There is no point in creating a law that does not work.

Green Party
Supports yes vote
Promises to implement

The Green Party supports the legalisation and regulation of personal use of cannabis in ways that reduce harm to users, their families, and communities. Drugs are a health, housing, employment, and education issue. Criminalising people doesn’t solve any of those problems. By legalising and regulating cannabis, we can set an age limit, potency limits, and daily purchase limits. Illegal drug dealers don’t check IDs to see how old their customers are, but regulated cannabis shops will.

Heartland Party
No response
Labour Party
No position
Promises to implement

Labour is committed to a health-based approach to drugs, to minimise harm and take control away from criminals. The referendum on whether or not to legalise and regulate cannabis gives New Zealanders the opportunity to make the decision. While Labour does not have a position on the referendum, we are committed to honouring the result.

Māori Party
No response
National Party
No position
No response

If National leads the next Government we will respect the referendum outcome in the event of a yes vote by introducing the Bill and sending it to a select committee. Whether the Bill progresses beyond that stage will depend on public submissions and potential amendments. National is committed to voting for the Bill at first reading but makes no commitment to supporting it beyond that.

New Conservative
No position
No promise to implement

We are committed to binding referenda when the public vote 67% in support. If that happens with this referenda, then the people have spoken, and we will not stop it being implemented. If it is less than 67% we will oppose it. The push to legalise recreational cannabis will result in increases of potency, psychosis, mental health, death and related crime, including exponential requirements for social/economic damage. Exactly as we have seen in nations overseas.

NZ First
No position
Promises to implement

My conscience is no more important than my neighbours and I will not seek to influence it. I believe that the New Zealand voting public are able to research and inform their vote on these issues – I am sceptical of those in politics who suggest that the public should not be trusted considering they are trusted enough to elect us as politicians, you can’t have it both ways.

One Party
No response
Outdoors Party
No response
Social Credit
No response
Sustainable New Zealand
No position
Promises to implement

We will respect the view of voters on this matter. Our view of referenda is that they should be reserved only for constitutional changes (e.g. the changing of the electoral system by referendum in 1993). We are wary of complex issues and plans for implementation being reduced to a simple yes/no proposition. We would, however, respect the will of voters and vote with the majority view.

TEA Party
Supports no vote
No promise to implement

We do not believe this legislation will solve the problem of black market, we believe there will be more social and health issues by legalising recreational cannabis, however we support for medical use.

The Opportunities Party
Supports yes vote
Promises to implement

This referendum isn't about whether people want to use cannabis, or think people should use cannabis. The fact is that people do use cannabis, and the question is whether people want to reduce the harm from that use. If so, voting yes is clearly the best choice. We need to legalise it, regulate it and tax it. Take supply off the hands of the gangs, ensure the product strength is regulated and that the industry creates legal jobs, profits and tax revenue. Overseas areas that have put in place careful regulation have shown a fall in youth usage which is the key concern for society.

Vision NZ
No response

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