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 offense. 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.
This is NOT what we are voting on at the referendum.

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 offenses 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.
This IS what we are voting on at the referendum.

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).

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

A system where there are few or no government regulations or restrictions.
This is NOT what we are voting on at the referendum.



Studies show that in countries and states that have legalised cannabis, reported use has not in general gone up as a result. Canada is especially helpful to study as its regulations are most similar to what NZ will introduce when the referendum bill passes. Older males do seem to use it a little more but use by young people seems to have declined.

Published research

 Early indications from this NCS study suggests use among Canadian youth has not increased. This accords with the Colorado experience—the first to legalize non-medical cannabis....

A third of 18- to 24-year-olds in 2019 reported consuming cannabis in the past three months, a level unchanged from before legalization ...

...cannabis use increased, particularly among persons aged 25 and older (13.1% to 15.5%)... Whereas use among 15- to 17-year-olds declined (19.8% to 10.4%).”

Statistics Canada

there remains no compelling evidence that legalization increases adolescent cannabis use. In the United States, legalization has been associated with increased use by adults, but not by youth. Preliminary observations indicate that the same is happening in Canada. During the 3 months following legalization in October 2018, cannabis use on 1 or more occasions increased in 1 group only: men aged 45–64 years”

 M.Leyton PhD in Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience



A person under age 20 found in possession of cannabis would receive a health-based response such as an education session, social or health service, or they would pay a small fee or fine. This would not lead to a conviction.

A person aged 20 or OVER would be able to:

  • buy cannabis, but only from businesses with a licence to sell cannabis
  • enter licensed premises where cannabis is sold or consumed
  • consume cannabis at a home or at licensed premises
  • purchase up to 14 grams of dried cannabis (or its equivalent) per day
  • share up to 14 grams of dried cannabis (or its equivalent) with another person aged 20 or over.

The gateway theory falls victim to the mistaken assumption that correlation alone implies causation. Using the same logic, one could argue that drinking milk is a gateway to illicit drug use since most people who use illicit drugs also drank milk as young people. The correlation between marijuana use and the use of other drugs should not be equated with causation.

The evidence suggests a much simpler explanation. We know that some people are more willing to try drugs than others, and people who are willing to try drugs are more likely to have used multiple drugs in their lifetime than people who don’t use drugs at all.

Additionally, it has been known in the scientific community for nearly two decades that most drug users begin with alcohol and nicotine before marijuana – usually before they are of legal age.

Source: Drug Policy Alliance. Debunking the Gateway Myth (PDF). Accessed 03/06/19 http://www.drugpolicy.org/sites/default/files/DebunkingGatewayMyth_NY_0.pdf


"There is very little credible evidence for a link between cannabis and violence. Observed associations generally arise because of the drug use patterns of individuals with conduct disorder, who were already generally violent prior to ever using cannabis."

Associate Professor Joe Boden, Department of Psychological Medicine, University of Otago, Christchurch



It is illegal now to drive while impaired by cannabis, just as it is with alcohol, and this will continue after the referendum bill passes. We support roadside testing for impairment, and we recognise that people who will drive under the influence after a law change are already doing so now. Overseas evidence shows no increase in traffic fatalities as a result of legalisation of cannabis.

Published research

 the likelihood of reporting driving after cannabis use did not change with legalization
Statistics Canada

Three years after recreational marijuana legalization, changes in motor vehicle crash fatality rates for Washington and Colorado were not statistically different from those in similar states without recreational marijuana legalization.”

Jayson D. Aydelotte MD et al in American Journal of Public Health


Because of ...an increased awareness that they are impaired, marijuana smokers tend to compensate effectively while driving ......

Epidemiological studies have been inconclusive regarding whether cannabis use causes an increased risk of accidents.”

R.A.Sewell MD et al in American Journal of Addiction



Employment law allows action to be taken if people are impaired at work, and this will continue after the referendum bill is passed. Currently many workplaces rely on urine testing to check for traces of cannabis and other illegal drugs, although the major causes of workplace impairment (fatigue, alcohol intoxication) are not usually tested for. Urine testing does not test for cannabis impairment but only for historical use (up to a week or two prior).  We support employers moving to impairment testing, as opposed to substance testing, as a more effective workplace health and safety procedure.

Published expert opinion

Impairment testing is far more valuable as a workplace safety tool than drug testing because it has the ability to screen out impairment regardless of the cause, including fatigue, which is a far more common factor in workplace accidents than drug use, and including medications and illicit drugs that can cause impairment, like drowsiness, but that are not included in typical employment drug screens, like over-the-counter medicines and “designer” or “club” drugs.

David Lauriski in Predictive Safety

Additional information:



Similar to alcohol, there is some correlation between heavy (daily) use of high potency cannabis by adolescents and mental health problems. Causality is not yet clear and it looks like the association may go both ways: some people use cannabis to self medicate while for other people cannabis use may exacerbate pre-existing conditions.

By regulating the cannabis market, the referendum bill seeks to make it harder for young people to get hold of cannabis (see above for how legalisation affects use rates by young people) and encourages a move away from high potency strains.

 Published research

There is now stronger evidence of a link between adolescent (but not adult) cannabis use and psychosis. The effect size continues to look small or nonexistent for sporadic use, but larger for vulnerable adolescents who use high-potency cannabis on a daily or near daily basis... It remains unclear whether the cannabis–psychosis association includes a causal component... The great majority of cannabis users do not develop psychotic disorders, and most people with psychoses were not frequent cannabis users
M.Leyton PhD in Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience


The results indicated that participants’ problematic cannabis use and impulsivity was not different whether they resided in states where cannabis is legal for medical and/or recreational use or prohibited.

Louise Destree et al in Drugs in Context


This research has found that early and frequent cannabis use is a component cause of psychosis, which interacts with other risk factors such as family history of psychosis, history of childhood abuse and expression of the COMT and AKT1 genes. These interactions make it difficult to determine the exact role of cannabis use in causing psychosis that may not have otherwise occurred.... Cannabis use by people with established psychotic disorder can exacerbate symptoms. Overall, the evidence suggests cannabis use will bring forward diagnosis of psychosis by an average of 2.7 years.....

That said, it is important to view this increased risk in context. The proportions of individuals with psychosis among the population and among cannabis users are low Curent estimates suggest that if frequent long-term cannabis use was known to cause psychosis, the rates of incidence would increase from seven in 1,000 in non-users to 14 in 1,000 cannabis users.
Dr Peter Gates in National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, Sydney



An excise tax would apply and be collected when a product is packaged and labelled for retail sale.

This tax would be based on weight and potency. A higher rate would apply for more potent cannabis.

A levy, similar to that applied to alcohol and gambling, would fund services to reduce cannabis harm, as set out in a public health, drug education and treatment services strategy.

A licensing fee would recover the costs associated with administering and monitoring the licensing regime.


A person aged 20 or over would ONLY be able to use cannabis at a home or at licensed premises


Wiping convictions (expungement) would certainly be the fair thing to do.

There isn’t anything in the bill for expungement of convictions at the moment but there is pressure for it to happen.

It may be that it is done later down the track as separate legislation, like they did with convictions for homosexuality.

You can apply to a court to have a conviction wiped, and it being decriminalised would be a good reason. Otherwise if the referendum passes it is something we will push for at Select Committee (the next stage after we win the referendum).


We understand people have questions and concerns, and its hard to have a conversation through a webpage. If you would like a speaker at your community group or event email sandra@makeitlegal.nz for more information.

You can also try the following good quality sources of information:
The Global Commission on Drug Policy
The Case for YES
The Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill
Action on Alcohol and Other Drugs (Mental Health Inquiry)

Download a Cannabis Legislation & Control Bill Fact Sheet

Here is our Make It Legal Cannabis Regulation & Control Bill factsheet.  Download a copy and place it in your cafe, club or local noticeboard.

Download a Make It Legal Poster

We have produced a great Make It Legal poster for you to print out!