This October 17th, 2020, New Zealand will hold its first cannabis referendum to decide on whether to legalize restricted access to cannabis. The referendum will vote on the Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill, which seeks to decide if New Zealanders should have access to legal cannabis for a variety of reasons. The non-binding referendum will ask the New Zealand public whether they vote yes or no to the bill, at the same time they vote in the general election, which is also on Saturday, October 17th.
The bill seeks to gauge public opinion on the controversial subject. The New Zealand Government website explains how the outcome of the bill will hopefully be used to implement regulatory measures that cover how cannabis is produced, suppled, and consumed by people. As a non-binding referendum, the final decision on whether weed will be legalized will ultimately be up to the government, not the people to have the final say. The bill would not yet cover the distribution of products online or the creation of new edible products, though the likelihood of seeing these products available on the mass market is strong. If the bill receives over 50% yes votes, it will then be debated by parliament. In this timescale, legal action and changes to the law are unlikely to be seen until 2021.
In light of early voting starting October 3rd, health experts have come out to praise the legalization of marijuana for medical use. In a web page dedicated to the subject on the Office of the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor’s website, a statement reads: ‘Many people have preconceptions and established beliefs about whether cannabis is good or bad, harmless or risky. The topic is complex and multifaceted.’ The website seeks to provide neutral information to answer the public’s growing number of questions surrounding the topic.