New Zealand’s Cannabis Referendum Gives Power to the People

New Zealand voters will take part in a world-leading double referendum when they vote in the general election next year. One referendum question will ask about legalizing cannabis for recreational use and the other will ask about whether euthanasia should be legalized under certain circumstances.

New Zealand has previously released the details of the proposed cannabis referendum, with the proposed law including a minimum purchase age of 20, not allowing public consumption and including controls on potency of recreational cannabis being sold.

New Zealand recently completed the regulatory foundation for its medical cannabis industry, allowing for general practitioners to prescribe medical cannabis products without any oversight from a specialist. The new rule is expected to go into effect April 1, 2020.

“There is huge international interest in the potential of medicinal cannabis. These regulations mean New Zealand companies will be well placed to manufacture for both the local and international market,” said Health Minister David Clark.

Currently, 20 companies are licensed to grow cannabis for research purposes and 238 companies are licenses to grow industrial hemp. The first commercial licenses are expected to be handed out in the middle of 2020 and products from local producers could end up in pharmacies by the end of the year.

New Zealand will also be the first country to put euthanasia to a public vote after lawmakers passed a bill explaining the country’s regulations for euthanasia. The law would allow any terminally ill patient with less than six months to live to choose euthanasia if approved by two doctors.

No other country has dealt with these issues via a public referendum, but the minor parties in the government pushed the two issues to referendum. There has been some backlash, as many believe a less informed public is doing a job that should be done by parliamentarians. 

“New Zealand’s Cannabis Referendum Gives Power to the People.” Culture Magazine, 23 Dec. 2019, https://culturemagazine.com/new-zealands-cannabis-referendum-gives-power-to-the-people/.

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