New Zealand has released the marijuana reform legislation due to go to a vote in September, and experts say the final version is very similar to Canada’s recreational use laws.

The bill creates carve-outs to protect micro-businesses and explicitly aims to protect communities from the ill effects of cannabis use.

Under the Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill, the government is proposing a tightly controlled sector that will prevent growers from also owning consumption and retail businesses, set limits on the amount of THC in products, and restrictions on the total amount of recreational cannabis available for sale.

That cap will prevent any company from controlling more than 20 per cent of supply and set aside a percentage of market share for small growers.

In a blow to foreign growers, imports and exports of recreational cannabis will be banned.

The bill was a commitment the Ardern government made to its coalition partner the Greens Party after the 2017 general election as part of a confidence and supply agreement.

The referendum is set to be held alongside the general election on September 19 and a referendum on euthanasia.


What’s allowed and what’s not

The New Zealand bill plans to control recreational cannabis much more tightly than it does alcohol or cigarettes.

Access, the ability to work in cannabis retailers, and permission to grow will be limited to people aged over 20, however under-20s caught with marijuana won’t be prosecuted. Instead they will receive a “health-based response” such as undertaking an education session, or pay a fine.

Anyone caught selling to underagers or growing too many plants will see the inside of a jail cell.

Kiwis will be allowed to buy up to 14 grams of marijuana or its equivalent from licensed businesses per day, share up to that amount with another person, and grow two plants at home with a maximum of four plants per household.

For commercial operations, they’ll need a licence from a yet-to-be-named cannabis regulatory authority and there will be suitability assessments for all people in the marijuana supply chain, from shop owners to company directors.


Edibles are ok, drinks are not

Like Canada, New Zealand is proposing to legalise products in stages.

In Canada this led to a second-wave boom in consumption when the basket of legal marijuana products was opened late last year to include items like edibles and vapes.

The kinds of products available in New Zealand will be different to those in Canada however, as the bill states products deemed to appeal to children or teenagers will not be approved, meaning popular items such as gummies are unlikely to pass the new regulator’s desk.

It will also ban cannabis drinks, alcohol or tobacco cannabis combinations, products designed to increase the psychoactive effects of THC, those containing roots and stems, and products that involve higher risk ways of taking the drug such as injectables or ear, eye, and nose products.

Cannabis for animals is off the table.

The first stage of legalisation will start with dried cannabis, fresh cannabis, cannabis plants, and cannabis seeds.

Finally, the bill gives a big no to a cheeky joint in the park — cannabis won’t be allowed to be consumed in public.