Q&A

Q&A

Q&A

So many questions....

We understand people have questions and concerns. In this section we try to provide information to some of those concerns.
Once the government puts out more information about the referendum process, we will refine these to explicitly respond to questions related to the referendum. In the meantime, here are some general responses to questions we have been asked during the public presentations we run.
If you would like a speaker at your community group or event email sandra@makeitlegal.nz for more information.

Definitions - what do all these terms mean?

De facto decriminalisation
Drug use or possession for personal use remains illicit under the law, but in practice, the person using that drug or in possess of it will not be arrested or prosecuted. However, this model is reliant on police discretion and open to discriminatory practice (e.g. young Maori men may be arrested where young Pakeha men may not be).

Decriminalisation
Drug use and/or possession, production and cultivation for personal use are no longer dealt with through criminal sanctions, but drug supply and sale remain a criminal offence. Under this legal regime sanctions may be administrative (e.g. an instant fine) or may be abolished altogether. This model does not address the issues of the illicit market.

Legal Regulation
Cannabis related activities (use, possession, cultivation, sale etc) are no longer criminal activities, but regulated through administrative laws, as is the case for other products such as alcohol and tobacco. While offences still occur, these are related to failing to adhere to regulations. For example – a person may grow cannabis at home for personal use legally, but if they sell it, they may be fined for unlicensed sale. Or if a licensed supplier sells to a child, they may be prosecuted and fined for underage selling, and have their license revoked.

Legal regulation itself covers a range of scenarios from strict regulation (such as with the regulation of hazardous substances or medicines containing opiates) to responsible regulation (as proposed for cannabis) through to lax regulation (such as with alcohol).

Legalisation
Means the same thing as Legal Regulation but is often mistakenly thought to mean liberalisation.

Liberalisation
A system where there are few or no government regulations or restrictions.

What age should people be to legally use cannabis?

It is important to acknowledge the illict market will not just disappear when cannabis becomes legal, so any future legal cannabis market will be in competition with the illicit market.
This means that imposing an age limit risks encouraging the illicit market to target young people who are not able to access cannabis through the legal market. The result of an age limit is that our most vulnerable people - youth - are the ones that will be accessing cannabis through the unregulated, potentially harmful and uncontrolled market while adults are able to access cannabis through the safe, regulated market. That is not what we want to happen.

But because most people do not understand there will be competition between the legal and illicit markets, it is common for people to have a strong belief that there must be an age limit. For politicians. it will be politically difficult to pass any legislation with no age limit, or even a low age limit such as 16yrs.
Therefore, as it is most likely an age limit will be in place. We suggest an approach is consistent with current restrictions on alcohol. This restricts supply of alcohol to people over 18 years, but does not impose criminal sanctions on under-aged drinkers.
At the very least, we want to avoid criminalising young people for cannabis use and do our best to discourage the illicit market supplying cannabis specifically to underage users.
In addition, drug education and support for schools dealing with alcohol and other drug use is necessary to discourage young people using cannabis.

Should people be allowed to grow their own cannabis?

We support people being legally allowed to grow cannabis at home.
Regardless of whether we have decriminalisation or legal regulation the issue of supply must be addressed. Allowing people to growing cannabis at home is a sensible way to allow supply if a legal market is not provided.
Even under a regulated market, some people may still prefer to grow their own - whether it is because they want fresh juiced cannabis or they just like gardening.

Some people propose a number limit (e.g. 6 planets) or quantity limit (e.g. 1kg) for home grown cannabis. We don't think this makes sense.
There are many factors involved in successful home growing and a plant limit will result in huge variation in end quantities. depending on the skill of the home gardener. In addition, a quantity limit would need to account for the period following harvest where quantities are higher. This would make policing difficult.

In addition, if we take the situation of beer as a model, home-brewers do not have limitations on the volume produced but are restricted from commercial sale without a license. The home brew model has fostered a growth in micro-breweries which has provided economic benefits. Home brew aficionados are able to experiment at home and then go to market with a researched product. We propose the same would happen with cannabis products via a home-grown model.

Therefore, we support having no limit on the number of plants or quantity held; with strict enforcement to stop unlicenced sale. This is consistent with the way we manage home brewing and home-grown tobacco (substances which are considerably more harmful than cannabis).

Should people be allowed to smoke cannabis is public places?

There are lots of ways to use cannabis, but many people smoke it. Smoking is not healthy for your lungs. We recommend that the Smoke-free Environments Act 1990 and subsequent regulations are amended to include cannabis use (smoking and vaping).
The existing legislation covers this issue adequately.

How do we stop people driving or working under the influence of cananbis?

Cannabis law reform will have an impact on workplace drug testing and on the enforcement of traffic regulations. Concerns around this have been voiced by employers, unions and the NZ Police. It should be noted, however, that substance testing for impairment is an ineffective health and safety procedure. It rarely tests the number one drug of abuse in the workplace (alcohol) and does not test impairment from cannabis use but rather the presence of long-lived cannabis metabolites.
Cannabis law reform will require that we address these difficult issues, as the simple presence of cannabis metabolites will no longer be grounds for punitive action.
The issue of impairment is not just about cannabis use. Impairment in the workplace can arise from sleep deprivation, relationship problems, pharmaceutical products and a range of other conditions that are difficult to individually test for.
For this reason:
- We recommend that driving under the influence of cannabis is prohibited as per existing regulations on impairment.
- We also recommend that the Government investigate impairment testing (as opposed to substance testing) as a more accurate measure of actual impairment in the workplace.

What about past cannabis convictions?

Convictions for personal cannabis offenses, or cultivation, or supply of cannabis that occurred prior to the change in law should be expunged.

The legislation should unambiguously allow people with prior convictions for cannabis related offenses to get legitimate work in the cannabis industry. People with convictions for cultivation and supply are likely to have skills and experience that is of value to the fledgling cannabis industry, and they should be encouraged to enter that industry. This will be particularly important in depressed regions where communities currently rely on cannabis income to get by.

Expungement should be effective as of the date of adoption of the new legislation.

Should we allow advertising and promotion?

We think we need strict regulations around advertising and promotion. We suggest plain packaging, no sporting endorsements, limited advertising (e.g. no TV), no advertising targeted at youth, and allow only the advertisement of outlets not the advertising of brands.
This allows people to find where to go to buy cannabis if they want it, without promoting the use of it through brand advertising.
Advertising and promotion are an area the general public are concerned about.
There is an indication that the public oppose a large commercial control of the cannabis market. Strict controls on marketing may help this concern. However, the most effective way to minimise large commercial control is to ensure entry to the legal cannabis market is cheap and easy - allowing many small scale owner-operated businesses to establish niche brands.

Should we collect fees and taxes?

We would like to see cannabis excises (tax) be introduced and ringfenced in a hypothecated fund. That fund would be available for mental health and addiction services and for drug education, in order to mitigate harms related to cannabis abuse and to encourage responsible use.
However, despite recommending the introduction of an excise tax, we warn against creating an excessively high price point for cannabis through it. Especially in the early years, regulated cannabis will be competing with the existing illicit market. Care must be taken not to ensure the continuance of the illicit market by making legal cannabis too expensive.
We recommend ensuring the legal regulated cannabis market is cheap and easy to enter. This will encourage many small owner-operated businesses - many coming from the illicit market into the legal regulated market. It will also discourage large commercial monopolies

What product information should be on the labels of cannabis products?

All cannabis products should contain clear information to guide consumers. We recommend the following label information be available:
- Strength of product – Develop a labelling system to warn consumers of what to expect. Such a system should be nationwide not brand by brand.
- Proportion THC/CBD (within band ranges not exact amounts)
- Country of origin – to support a fledgling NZ industry
- Advisement of how the product was grown i.e. indoor/outdoor (for natural cannabis only)
- Advisement of plant type i.e. sativa/indica/other (for natural cannabis only)
There may be some variation in the criteria required for natural cannabis vs cannabis products.

How do we enforce a legal regulated market?

The powers to enforce licensing restrictions be consistent with alcohol regulation, and include an audit system for cannabis from cultivation to retail sale.
If illicit activity is identified through the system, licenses can be revoked. This discourages retailers or others purchasing stolen product or product from home-growers.
However - we caution that enforcement of cannabis should be proportional to the harm caused. Cannabis is less harmful than alcohol or tobacco, and should be treated as such.

Can we restrict the scale of cannabis businesses?

Public concern exists around the potential for large commercial groups to dominate the market, with significant associated lobby power. Some restrictions on scale will help to keep the industry in check and hobble its ability to lobby for less restrictive regulation, to the detriment of public health.

In addition, small growers in the current illicit market provide a livelihood for many people in economically depressed communities. Small growers benefit dispersed local economies by spending into them in a way that larger, more centralised business do not.
Ensuring it is cheap and easy to enter the legal regulated market will ensure small businesses are able to establish niche markets and discourage large commercial monopolies.
Regulation that inhibits the ability of a few businesses to monopolise the industry and supports small-scale operations are likely to be seen more favorably by the public and increase the benefits of a regulated market.

What about existing illegal growers and suppliers?

We could follow the Canadian model by supporting and facilitating existing growers and suppliers to obtain licenses and enter the legal market. This may include ensuring entry to the legal market is cheap and easy to do.

A transition period and government assistance to become legal growers and suppliers will discourage the illicit market, retain existing skills and experience, ensure a quicker transition as there will be no ‘hold up’ of supply, and encourage existing suppliers and growers to support the new system.

Do we need seed regulation?

We recommend that seed (used for cultivation) is not regulated, and that existing NZ seed from the current illegal market, acclimatised to New Zealand conditions, be allowed so long as it can meet product standards. Some transition provisions may be needed to allow time for compliance.

Where can I get more good quality information?

Try the following good quality sources of information:
The Global Commission on Drug Policy
http://www.globalcommissionondrugs.org/

Whakawātea te HuarahiA model drug law to 2020 and beyond
https://www.drugfoundation.org.nz/assets/uploads/2017-uploads/Model-drug-law//Whakawatea-te-Huarahi-July2017.pdf