Whether you’re living or just visiting, you may have asked “Is weed legal in New Zealand?” Cannabis is one of the most widely consumed recreational drugs in the country including caffeine, tobacco, and alcohol, and the unauthorized possession of cannabis, in any amount, is considered a crime.
Cannabis is the most widely used illegal drug in New Zealand. However, a recent survey divulged that about 13 percent of residents from 15 to 64 years old consumed cannabis. The county is the 9th highest cannabis consumer in the world.
It was only in 2018 that the law was changed and allowed the use of medical cannabis. Medical marijuana is now available to patients who have terminal illnesses who are in the final year of their lives. It was in the same year that the government revealed that a referendum on the regulation of marijuana for recreational or personal use to be part of the general election in 2020. The “no” vote prevailed and this meant that the sale, production, and possession of cannabis will remain illegal in New Zealand.
History of cannabis use in New Zealand
Is weed legal in New Zealand? History will answer why. The United Kingdom’s prohibited the extensive production of industrial-type hemp in New Zealand. The country passed its Dangerous Drugs Act in 1927 and included in the list of controlled substances is Indian hemp. This prohibited the flowering tops of Cannabis sativa where marijuana resin was extracted. Also included were resin from Indian hemp, preparations from the resin, and extracts and tinctures.
Marijuana remains as a prescription medication when the Dangerous Drugs Act was passed. The Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs included obligations of member countries like New Zealand to develop the Narcotics Act in 1965. This act prohibited the use of certain drugs which include cannabis.
Recreational marijuana is rare in the country. Only one scholar mentioned that cannabis use was common among university students as well as musicians. The growing and distribution of commercial hemp were allowed under the Misuse of Drugs Regulations in 2006.
It was in 2013 when the Whakamana Cannabis Museum was founded. This is the first and the only marijuana museum in New Zealand in the city of Dunedin.
Cannabis usage in New Zealand
According to reports, cannabis is the most widely consumed prohibited drug in New Zealand. It is also the 4th most widely consumed recreational drug after tobacco, caffeine, and alcohol. 13.4 percent of 16 to 64 years old use cannabis which is considered the 9th highest in any country. It is also reported that around 15 percent of cannabis users consume the drug ten times or even more in a month. A study conducted by the UN showed there was a decline in the use of cannabis by people from 15 to 45 years of age from 20 percent in 2003 to 17.9 percent in 2010.
Meanwhile, the Christchurch Health and Development Study has revealed that in 25 years, more than two-thirds of 1000 locals from 15 to 25 had used marijuana at least once by 21 years of age. 5 percent of the respondents have used weed 400+ times. This study assumed that there was regular to heavy use of cannabis and this was connected to an increased possibility of using other dangerous drugs.
The legality of weed in New Zealand
The Misuse of Drugs Act of 1975 controls the use of cannabis and under this law, cannabis use is illegal. The maximum punishment for getting caught with possession of the drug is imprisonment for up to 3 months or a fine of $500.
Growing cannabis has a punishment of 7 years imprisonment while selling marijuana and offering it to a person under 18 years old has a penalty of up to 8 years imprisonment.
When it comes to hashish and cannabis oil, these are classified as Class B drugs. Manufacture and supply of Class B drugs have a punishment of up to 14 years imprisonment. The penalty for possession is also similar to Class A drugs.
You will be presumed as a supplier if you are caught with 28 grams of cannabis or having 100 joints. This is unless you can prove that you’re not a cannabis supplier.
To this day, there have been numerous campaigns regarding the decriminalization of cannabis but none has become successful. Meanwhile, despite the tight punishment, it is accepted that many use cannabis, and the usage rate is high among the population. Also, it is generally accepted that small amounts of cannabis may not be often caught and prosecuted. There are also reports that first-time offenders may only get a formal warning and their items confiscated by authorities.
Cannabis for the terminally sick
The approval of the Misuse Drugs Amendment Act in 2018 has paved the way for people who need cannabis for therapeutic purposes to get access to medical marijuana and to use paraphernalia to consume it.
The same year, the government called out a nationwide vote on the legality of marijuana for recreational or personal use which will be part of the general elections in 2020. Around 50.7 percent of voters were not in favor of the legalization of personal use cannabis and around 48.4 percent voted to legalize it.
There are legal cannabis-based drug companies that are allowed to operate in New Zealand. Medical patients may see a specialist physician and may be considered after meeting strict rules. Sativex was approved in 2016 for use in the country. Patients need to pay the retail cost of the drug as this is not subsidized by the Government.
In 2017, the Government also announced that medicinal cannabis will be regulated to help people who are suffering from chronic pain and those with terminal cases. Patients who qualify for the program will be able to buy their medication from licensed dispensaries using a prescription.
Is weed legal in New Zealand? Only medical cannabis use has been approved. In 2019, the Misuse of Drugs Regulations was created and commenced on April 2020. Under this law is the Medicinal Cannabis Scheme with regulations regarding the minimum quality of different psychoactive products derived from cannabis. The Ministry of Health publishes and updates a list of approved psychoactive medicinal cannabis products.