[Canniseur: En Zed is getting in on cannabis legalization. This is noteworthy. This is a welcome development indeed. It’s especially of note to hear New Zealand’s civilized approach to viewing their drug crisis as a health issue, rather than a criminal issue.]
The New Zealand government will be unveiling the details of a long-promised 2020 referendum on marijuana legalization next week.
The measure to go before voters is expected be non-binding, meaning that it wouldn’t directly lead to the establishment of a legal cannabis market if approved. However, local media reports indicate that lawmakers plan to craft legalization legislation that would be introduced if the referendum passes.
There are few details currently available about the legalization proposal, which the country’s justice minister is expected to place before the Cabinet on Monday, but it will likely involve allowing adults at least 18 or older to possess, use and cultivate marijuana for personal use, according to The New Zealand Herald. (Sources told another outlet the age minimum would be 20.)
It is said to include marketing restrictions and a ban on public consumption, as well as possible THC limits.
Reform advocates have been closely watching developments New Zealand since the release of a minority coalition government agreement following the 2017 elections. The “confidence and supply” deal stipulated that the Green Party would help elect Labour Party leader Jacinda Ardern as the country’s prime minister on the condition that voters get an opportunity to decide on legalization.
Ardern, who supports medical cannabis, has been repeatedly pressed about the process her government has in mind. In April, she declined to say whether a legalization bill would be introduced prior to a referendum, stating “that’s something that will be announced once Cabinet has finalized its decision.”
If the referendum passes and lawmakers follow through in introducing a legalization bill shortly thereafter, it’s expected to take approximately a year to get it through the legislature. The election is scheduled for November 21, 2020.
New Zealand’s government has already expressed an interest in pursing alternative approaches to drug policy, with officials calling on law enforcement to avoid criminalizing people for personal possession or consumption of synthetic drugs in the midst of a drug crisis and instead treat cases as a public health issue, for example.
A January poll found that 60 percent of New Zealanders said they would vote for a legalization referendum, with 24 percent against and 16 percent undecided.
If New Zealand ultimately does legalize, it would join Canada and Uruguay as the only countries where cannabis is federally legal and regulated, at least so far. But Mexican lawmakers are also making progress on a legalization plan, so it’s yet to be seen which nation is next in line to end prohibition
Photo courtesy of Tākuta.