The high cost of (not) stopping people getting high

Prohibition of marijuana, just like prohibition of alcohol before it, has been a costly failure. Treasury’s informal estimate of the cost is over $300 million per year and the benefits to date, in terms of reduction in usage, are modest.
Wellington, Wellington (Federal)
May 14, 2019

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Andrew Little

Minister of Justice
5th/ 8 in Cannabis Regulations

There will be a clear choice for New Zealanders in a referendum at the 2020 General Election. Cabinet has agreed there will be a simple Yes/No question on the basis of a draft piece of legislation.

That draft legislation will include:

 • A minimum age of 20 to use and purchase recreational cannabis,

 •...Read more

There will be a clear choice for New Zealanders in a referendum at the 2020 General Election. Cabinet has agreed there will be a simple Yes/No question on the basis of a draft piece of legislation.

That draft legislation will include:

 • A minimum age of 20 to use and purchase recreational cannabis,

 • Regulations and commercial supply controls,

 • Limited home-growing options,

 • A public education programme,

 • Stakeholder engagement.

Officials are now empowered to draft the legislation with stakeholder input, and the Electoral Commission will draft the referendum question to appear on the ballot.

The voters’ choice will be binding because all of the parties that make up the current Government have committed to abide by the outcome.

We hope and expect the National Party will also commit to respecting the voters’ decision.

I have today released the actual paper considered by Cabinet.

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David Seymour

Member
3rd/4,330 in Elected Officials

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May 14, 2019

The Government must ensure it is up to speed with developments in other jurisdictions so it can provide voters with the best possible information on which to make an informed decision. The Government’s priority should be harm reduction, especially keeping cannabis out of the hands of children. That is also Canada’s policy objective,...Read more

May 14, 2019

The Government must ensure it is up to speed with developments in other jurisdictions so it can provide voters with the best possible information on which to make an informed decision. The Government’s priority should be harm reduction, especially keeping cannabis out of the hands of children. That is also Canada’s policy objective, but they are two years ahead of us, we can learn from them what works.

New Zealanders must be in a position to cast an informed vote. By the time New Zealanders vote, Canada will have had two years’ experience with the legalisation of cannabis.

The Government should send commissioners to Canada to find out everything they can about that country’s experience with legalisation. I look forward to seeing the Government’s plans for providing quality evidence informed by the experiences of our friends around the world. 

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Canada's travails with legal cannabis was aptly summarized by a recent Bloomberg article, citing several market analysts who noted the lack of policy innovation, a messy patchwork of provincial regulation and severe restrictions on marketing and branding leaving Canadian companies behind their American counterparts in many ways (despite federal illegality).

While these mistakes are unfortunately common (and California is no excemption), there is no reason that New Zealand can't fix them and become a world leader on how to get this policy right (as opposed to being the first to pass a law and revel in one's historical achievements). 

Well said, David. 

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Andrew Little

Minister of Justice
5th/8 in Cannabis Regulations

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June 1, 2019

A Government controlled and tightly regulated market, with the size of the market set at a level that is consistent with current demand for cannabis, achieves legalisation of personal use of recreational cannabis while at the same time allowing regulation and control of harmful aspects of the substance throughout the whole supply...Read more

June 1, 2019

A Government controlled and tightly regulated market, with the size of the market set at a level that is consistent with current demand for cannabis, achieves legalisation of personal use of recreational cannabis while at the same time allowing regulation and control of harmful aspects of the substance throughout the whole supply chain.  

Existing alcohol and tobacco regulatory models provide lessons for the regulation of cannabis as there are key similarities between the three substances. However, it should be noted that there are also important differences, such as their effects, the way they are used, and the Government’s response to use. 


Regulation of cannabis provides a unique opportunity to develop a new regulatory system aimed at carefully mitigating harm and shaping the social norms that will develop around recreational cannabis use. We have an opportunity to anticipate and mitigate the risks seen with tobacco and alcohol regulation in New Zealand.  

Legalising the personal use of recreational cannabis without legalising its commercial cultivation and production could lead to a situation similar to the Netherlands. Cannabis use in the Netherlands has been decriminalised and ‘coffee shop’ sales are tolerated but production is strictly forbidden, which has resulted in coffee shops be ng supplied via the illicit market. 


who can use and purchase cannabis; 


what forms of cannabis should be regulated; 


where cannabis can be used; 


the scope of the private sphere – what people can do in their own home; and 


the scope of the commercial sphere – what can be conducted commercially. 
 

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Supporting info

New Zealanders Make Decision on Cannabis

2019/05/07 - Ministry of Justice

ACT Welcomes Cannabis Referendum

2019/05/07 - ACT Party