Will New Zealand’s Cannabis Referendum Help To Legalise Cannabis?
New Zealand held a “Cannabis Referendum” on 17th October 2020, the referendum was a non-binding referendum that was held together with the general elections. The Cannabis Referendum was held on the question of whether to legalise Cannabis, thereby creating a new industry. The voting has been completed but the results are expected to be released by 6th November 2020. So there is still a few days left to see how the people have voted.
It must be noted that the referendum is for the legislation and control of cannabis and the results of the legislation are not going to affect the legal status of medicinal cannabis, as it is already legal in New Zealand.
Work on this referendum has been going on since the last 3-4 years. The proposal for the referendum on cannabis legality was made after the last general election in 2017.
Current Status of Cannabis
Possession of Cannabis, at present is illegal in New Zealand and it is a criminal and punishable offence. Cannabis possession can be punished for upto 3 months with an additional penalty for up to $500.
Medicinal cannabis is however legal. Cannabis based medicinal products can only be prescribed by a specialist medical doctor, only to patients who meet the prescribed criteria to use cannabis based medicinal products.
This is the first time that the question of cannabis legalisation has been proposed in New Zealand. The legislation, if supported by the majority, will effectively legalise recreational usage of cannabis. The votes have been cast, so now everyone is waiting for the results to come through.
This should have been a hot topic for discussion leading up to the referendum, given the fact that the referendum was held in conjunction with the general elections and a referendum on euthanasia. However, Covid-19 took the front seat in all of the debates and discussions leading up to the referendum.
If the people have decided in favor of legalization, then New Zealand will become the first country after Canada and Uruguay to completely legalize recreational Cannabis. The legislation will allow Kiwis aged 20 and above to buy at least 14 grams of cannabis a day.
Kiwis are without any doubt eagerly waiting for the results of the referendum to come out, however Australians too are watching this referendum with keen interest. Whatever the outcome of this referendum is, it will directly impact the ongoing debate on cannabis legalisation in Australia. Progressive politicians in Australia are already calling for cannabis to be legalised and if New Zealand has voted in favor of legalisation, then Australia can get a case study to analyze and determine how cannabis legalisation can work in Australia.
Although the results are not out yet, they are expected to be very close. Surveys leading up to the referendum were split either way. It truly is difficult to predict how this will settle. It should however be understood that even if the vote comes in favor, cannabis will not become legal right away. The question will then be put in front of the parliament and it will need to be passed through the parliament in order to become completely legalised. It is expected that if the results of the referendum are positive, then the labor led government will get it passed through parliament as well.
Regulation Is The Way
The legalisation of cannabis has to be regulated. Although cannabis has got a lot of benefits and medicinal properties, it however still falls in the same category as alcohol and tobacco. If left uncontrolled, there can be a risk of substance abuse and addictions. For this reason the countries that are legalising cannabis, need to regulate it properly, so that the costs do not outweigh the benefits.
New Zealand, plans to regulate the usage of cannabis by placing an age limit and daily purchase limit. The legislation also proposes market control measures to prevent monopoly formation and cartelization. In addition to this, the proposed legislation also aims to impose a tax on cannabis products, thereby increasing the revenue stream for the government.
If legalised, the government aims to earn a revenue through the sales of cannabis and cannabis related medicinal products. This should also help eliminate the black market trade for cannabis, at the same time freeing up resources of the government to police the supply of cannabis. Once legalised cannabis is made available through pharmacies and other outlets, the demand for black market products will reduce as the black marketers will not be able to compete on price.
Australia on Watch
If any country is interested in what New Zealand decides then it is Australia. Why? Because an overwhelming majority already supports cannabis legalisation and a vote in favor of cannabis in New Zealand will give leverage to the Australians to put more pressure on the government and their elected representatives to legalise cannabis.
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