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Cannabis referendum draft law welcomed

Cannabis referendum draft law welcomed, but a missed opportunity to put people before profits, says NORML.

Cannabis reform organisation NORML has welcomed the release today of more details about the cannabis referendum and a draft bill, but says the Government has missed a huge opportunity to make the reforms more popular.

Justice Minister Andrew Little and Greens Leader Andrew Shaw jointly released the draft bill and a new website (www.referendum.govt.nz). The bill sets out a minimum age of 20 to purchase and use legal cannabis products, allows edible products, and sets a purchase limit of 14 grams per day.

"We welcome the detail and appreciate the work that has gone into this," said NORML spokesperson Chris Fowlie in Auckland today. "The public of New Zealand needs to know what they will be voting on, and to have time to consider it properly. In particular we welcome the focus on consumer safety. It's also heartening to see the commitment to running a public education campaign in the lead up to the referendum."

"The draft bill is a huge step in the right direction, but is a missed opportunity to build in measures that would make reform benefit everyone," said Mr Fowlie. "People tell us they want a law for the people, not just profits."

NORML had previously called for a well-funded public education campaign ahead of the cannabis referendum, and a model based on social equity, social retail enterprises and social clubs.

"It's important the public can base their vote on clear factual information, not hysteria about evil gummy bears," said Chris Fowlie in July 2019, in a blog post that predicted the appointment of the Prime Minister's Chief Science Advisor to provide factual unbiased information, and called banning gummy bears a "no brainer".

"The draft bill allows edibles but doesn't have anything about social equity, expunging cannabis records, or encouraging local craft growers over booze-owned foreign corporates," said Mr Fowlie today.

"We're pleased adults will be able to grow their own, but are concerned the proposed limit of two plants - with a maximum of 4 per household - will not be sufficient for most cannabis consumers, while those with a green thumb could grow two monster plants."

"The draft bill released today only applies to property owners, leaving renters and the homeless to find other ways."

"The proposed age limit of 20 for purchase and use will condemn 18- and 19-year-olds to source cannabis illicitly from those prepared to operate outside the law, or choose the more harmful legal alternative of alcohol."

"We had hoped the more vulnerable in society would not be left out," said Mr Fowlie. "We also want the referendum to pass comfortably, so we're looking for features that would be broadly supported by most New Zealanders."

Chris Fowlie had previously written to Justice Minister Andrew Little and said that a model based on social equity, social enterprises and social clubs "could be what it takes to win the cannabis referendum". In consultation with a wide variety of stakeholders, Mr Fowlie has designed the Cannabis & Hemp Opportunity, Investment and Social Equity (CHOISE) model "to win the cannabis referendum".

"The draft bill released today goes part way there. We hope they incorporate some CHOISE aspects when filling in the details."

The referendum announcement comes a week after a Horizon poll found a surge in support for the Yes vote; Ministry of Health statistics showed a 26% jump in the number of people self-identifying as cannabis consumers (now 15% of adults aged 15+, up from 11% in 2017/18); and the US state of Michigan had their first legal cannabis sales under a new law that promotes social equity.

The draft bill can be read here: https://www.referendum.govt.nz/materials/Cannabis-Legalisation-and-Control-Bill.pdf

The CHOISE model can be downloaded here: https://choise.nz/pub/files/Cannabis_CHOISE_V0.23.pdf


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