What's this about a referendum?

The government has promised to hold a referendum on legalising the personal use of cannabis at the 2020 election. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to change NZ's approach to the illegal drug Kiwis use most.

Our current laws do a lot of damage. Over 3,000 people get stung with a cannabis conviction each year, affecting relationships, travel, and employment. Yet it continues to be the most commonly consumed illegal drug in New Zealand. Nearly 12% of us consume cannabis every year.

So it’s time to take cannabis out of hands of the black market, stop harmful convictions, and vote yes in the referendum.


Legalising cannabis is the right way to go

Some people worry that legalising cannabis would be irresponsible because of the harm the drug can cause – especially for young people. Actually, legalising cannabis means we can create tight regulations to protect health and human rights.

The right system can:

  • Restrict access to young people
  • Take the stuffing out of the black market
  • Influence people so they consume less cannabis, less frequently
  • Stop pointless convictions

Regulating cannabis is especially crucial for Māori. Not only do Māori experience more harm from cannabis use, they also report nearly twice as many legal problems from that use than Europeans and others. Regulation should enable a genuine harm reduction approach, and social justice, for Māori communities.


We need to protect young people from the harm cannabis can cause

Despite prohibition, one in four high school students try cannabis. As long as there’s a demand, the black market is happy to supply. Unfortunately, drug dealers don't check ID.

Meanwhile, research shows that the longer we can delay the age that young people first use cannabis, the better for their health. 

Cannabis affects teenagers’ brains more than adults because they are still developing. So they need extra protection. A tightly regulated cannabis market will restrict access to young people and give us a better shot at influencing the age at which they first use the drug.


Act now - there is lots you can do to help

In the run up to the referendum we'll be concentrating on making sure all Kiwis know the facts about cannabis - the good and the bad. We want to make sure they know what they're voting for, and why. But we can't do it without help - and that's where you come in!

If you want to be involved, sign up to join Health not Handcuffs. For now we're encouraging people to get up to speed on the issues and get chatting to others about cannabis. As the referendum approaches, we'll add in other things you can do. And we hope you'll send in your ideas too. This opportunity is too good to miss - let's make sure we nail it! 

Check out the best way to have a kōrero about cannabis.