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New Zealand to Vote on Marijuana Law Reform

Tim Kohut

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It appears New Zealand could be the latest country to get in on the green rush.

Per the NZ Herald, a public referendum regarding the use of legal recreational cannabis will be held prior to, or during the 2020 election, following an agreement between the country’s two prominent political parties, the Green and Labour parties.

Cannabis in New Zealand

During a special general meeting conducted by Green Party delegates Thursday night, several policy agreements with the Labour party were under discussion, including topics ranging from budget increases to mental health services to the aforementioned referendum regarding the legal use of cannabis.

According to Green Party leader James Shaw, this was the first time the party made their policy gains available to the public, as they were still under negotiations with the Labour party.

Shaw said that the topic of marijuana legalization has been a party policy for two decades and believes the use of the substance for recreational use should be a personal health issue, not a matter of criminal justice. He also went on to say that the prohibition of cannabis has not been an effective way of keeping the plants off the streets, regardless.

“The prohibition model hasn’t worked, plus it puts the entire trade into the hands of gangs,” Shaw explained. “If you had a regulated market, the same way we do with alcohol and tobacco, you can control the price, advertising, point of sale, quality, and run full public health education campaigns.”

Shaw also went on to say that public perception of recreational cannabis has dramatically shifted and that a public referendum on its legalization at or before the 2020 election would be considered timely.

New Zealand to Vote on Marijuana Law Reform

If New Zealand does manage to legalize recreational cannabis countrywide, it would become, presumably, the third country to do so. Uraguay has managed to fully legalize marijuana, while Canada is set to do so by July 1 2018, barring any setbacks.

Although New Zealand has outlined its desire to legalize recreational cannabis, they have yet to go into specifics, regarding distribution, regulation or pricing models.

Regulation issues have been one of the biggest roadblocks for the widespread legalization of cannabis in other countries, particularly in the United States. The biggest grey area is driving while under the influence of weed, primarily based on the fact that there’s not an accurate way of testing cannabis impairment in drivers.

Ontario has managed to come up with a zero-tolerance policy to punish drivers under the influence of marijuana, but it remains to be seen whether or not it could be a viable measure of accuracy upon its institution.

All these topics will undoubtedly become a topic of discussion during New Zealand’s public referendum on cannabis law, whenever that time comes.

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