New Zealanders will be voting for their electorate candidate, their favourite political party, and also deciding if they would like to legalise euthanasia and recreational cannabis.
This year's general election will be held on a Saturday, the same as 2017 when the general election was held on September 23.
"We will be asking for a further term to get the job done," the Prime Minister said at her post-Cabinet press conference on Tuesday, after confirming the date.
New Zealand operates under a mixed-member proportional (MMP) voting system. In 2017, 71 members were elected from single-member electorates and 49 members were elected from closed party lists.
In September last year, it was announced there will be a new electorate at the 2020 general election resulting in one fewer list seats in Parliament than at the 2017 election.
The 2017 election saw five political parties return to Parliament - National, Labour, New Zealand First, the Greens and ACT - down from seven parties in 2014.
One of those parties that didn't make it back to Parliament was the Māori Party, and it's rumoured they are gearing up for a return to Parliament in 2020.
After the 2017 election, even with support partner ACT, the National Party were short of the 61 seats needed to govern following the 2017 general election results.
It needed New Zealand First's nine seats to govern, but New Zealand First leader Winston Peters decided to give his seats to Labour and form a coalition, with the Greens as Labour's confidence and supply partner.
The election resulted in Labour leader Jacinda Ardern becoming New Zealand's third female Prime Minister, and Peters taking on the Deputy Prime Minister role for a second time.
Wellington cannabis social club the Daktory was raided by police on Thursday afternoon after a search warrant was conducted.
In a statement, police said a 69-year-old man was arrested and is due to appear in court on Friday on a charge of breaching bail and other charges yet to be confirmed.
The Daktory confirmed the man in custody is club founder Dakta Green.
The raid occurred the day after the Government announced its medicinal cannabis regulations, which the Daktory said was a day celebrated by cannabis users.
"[After] the new regulations are released to the public, a prepared warrant is executed by the NZ Police at the 5pm opening of The Daktory club," it said in a statement.
The Government confirmed there will be a licencing regime for the cultivation, manufacturing and supply of medicinal cannabis products among its regulations, which will come into effect on April 1, 2020.
The statement from the Daktory says there will be a support rally outside Wellington District Court on Friday for Green, consisting of club members and members of the public.
"Dakta has created a peaceful environment for our community members to be. He has sat with and comforted those who face their own mortality because of illness and disease."
The club called it a "dark evening" on an otherwise celebrated day.
"People are still being actively arrested for cannabis charges, despite its imminent transition in three months' time," the Daktory said.
"NZ Police need to stop arresting our people who are causing no harm. With the change of regulation a mere three months away, maybe it's time to stop focusing on cannabis as a dangerous drug and focus on the real issues our community is facing."
The Daktory was previously raided in August when it was located at its previous Wellington address on Hania St, and two men were arrested. At the time, police seized cannabis, cash and equipment for growing cannabis.
The club then relocated to the historic Temperance Hotel on Cambridge Terrace in November.
Green has owned and operated the Daktory since it first opened in Auckland in 2012. That location was also raided and shut down.
Minister of Health Dr David Clark says new regulations will allow local cultivation and manufacture of medicinal cannabis products that will potentially help ease the pain of thousands of people.
Today's regulations, which come into effect on 1 April 2020, set out the quality and licensing requirements for manufacturing and distributing medicinal cannabis.
“Many New Zealanders will have watched a loved one struggle with chronic pain, particular near the end of their lives. Medicinal cannabis products can make a real difference to people’s quality of life,” Dr Clark said.
“Over time this Government’s medicinal cannabis scheme will help people ease their suffering by making a wider range of quality medicinal cannabis products available.
“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.
“There is already considerable expertise in this area with 20 companies currently licensed to grow cannabis for research purposes and another 238 growing industrial hemp. It’s expected that at least some of these companies will apply for licences for medicinal cannabis,” Dr Clark said.
The first medicinal cannabis licences are expected to be issued by mid-2020.
In other countries locally grown product has taken over two years to come on the market. It’s expected locally grown product could be available sooner than this in New Zealand, partly due to the research underway already in New Zealand under existing licences.
“People with prescriptions for medicinal cannabis products can currently fill prescriptions with products sourced from overseas, which are often costly,” Dr Clark said.
“I’m confident increased competition from local manufacturers will drive prices down over time.
“However, sadly we know some people won’t be able to wait for domestic manufacturers to begin production.
“So as a compassionate measure, people eligible to receive palliation will continue to be exempt from prosecution for illicit cannabis. That will be reviewed once the Scheme has been in operation and more quality products become available.
"These regulations put in place the infrastructure that allows us to locally grow, manufacture and provide quality medicinal cannabis products that are intended to make a real difference to people living in pain and also those nearing the end of their lives,” Dr Clark said.
Five things you need to know:
NOTE: The regulations are available here: health.govt.nz/MedicinalCannabisScheme
The Medicinal Cannabis Scheme will enable domestic cultivation and manufacture of medicinal cannabis. The Scheme will include a licencing regime for cultivation of cannabis for medicinal use, and the manufacture and supply of medicinal cannabis products.
A medicinal cannabis agency, within the Ministry of Health, is being established to oversee the Scheme. The Agency will provide guidance on the Scheme for health practitioners, industry, and consumers.
The Scheme includes appropriate restrictions to ensure cannabis is grown under appropriate security, and batch testing of products to limit contamination, test shelf life, and accurately identify the level of active ingredients.
As for all unapproved medicines, advertising of medicinal cannabis products isn’t permitted and a cost recovery scheme will be in place to cover the costs of administering the licensing and regulatory side of the scheme.
There has been a significant level of consultation and advice sought from those already interested in the scheme and as a result there has already been a significant reduction in the licensing costs to those initially proposed by the Ministry of Health.
The medicinal cannabis products permitted under the scheme include dried products, a variety of tablets and liquids but do not allow products able to be smoked.
All medicinal cannabis products need to be prescribed by a medical practitioner and obtained directly from the medical practitioner or from a pharmacy.
The standards will apply to both imported and locally produced products and will allow people to be confident they’re receiving quality products.
The Medicinal Cannabis Scheme is being established to meet the Government’s commitment to increase access to medicinal cannabis products.
Under the Scheme, medicinal cannabis products will only be available as prescription medicines, prescribed by a medical practitioner. This includes both cannabidiol (CBD) products and products containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive component of cannabis.
The Ministry is currently working on the regulations required to support the Scheme. The regulations will include:
Compliance with quality standards will give medical practitioners, as well as consumers and potential export markets, confidence that the medicinal cannabis products contain, for example, consistent amounts of specified ingredients, and have limits on contaminants such as pesticides or mould.
The regulations that set the minimum quality standards will be made by 18 December 2019 and the Scheme will commence in the first quarter of 2020. Medicinal cannabis products will be required to meet the quality standards once the Scheme commences. Medicinal cannabis products which are available now will also be required to meet the quality standards, but there will be a transition period after commencement for such products to be submitted to the Ministry for assessment.
Most medicinal cannabis products available under the Scheme are likely to be ‘unapproved’ products. These products cannot be advertised but the Ministry will make available to prescribers a list of unapproved medicinal cannabis products that meet the quality standards. This list will be available after the Scheme commences, and once products have been assessed.
For more information about the Medicinal Cannabis Scheme, see the Ministry of Health website.
A man found with two large cannabis plants and more than 100 cannabis seedlings told police they were solely for his personal medicinal use and a key ingredient in his daily smoothies.
But his claims were rubbished in court, with the prosecution saying the "rather large quantity" was too much for one person.
Shannan Rick Carlos Almao was arrested and charged with cannabis cultivation after police discovered three grow rooms at his home in Stratford, Taranaki.
On the morning of November 4, police knocked at the door of the 37-year-old's house,but when nobody answered the officers went around the back.
There they were met with two cannabis plants, about 70 centimetres in height, drying on the ground next to the garage.
The discovery sparked the Search and Surveillance Act, leading police to make a bumper haul of weed crops at the address.
Sitting on top of a freezer inside Almao's garage were 109 cannabis seedlings approximately 5 to 15cm in height, all of which were in a healthy state.
Next to the freezer were two seven-foot grow tents, with one containing a large bushy cannabis plant around 80cm in height.
Police described it as very healthy and having been well looked after.
Inside the second tent were nine healthy cannabis plants, about 40cm in height, and two cannabis seedlings approximately 10 centimetres, also in a healthy state.
Equipment to grow cannabis and a variety of liquid fertilisers were found in a third grow tent and on a shelf next to the tent.
The cannabis and all equipment was seized and secured and taken back to the Stratford Police Station.
Police caught up with Almao later in the day and following his arrest he told them he grew the cannabis for medicinal purposes.
Admitting the single charge in Hāwera District Court on Tuesday, Almao reiterated from the dock that the cannabis was solely used by him to help with pain and anxiety.
"He uses the leaves in his smoothies," defence lawyer Nathan Bourke added, before acknowledging that, while it was "a lot" of cannabis, his client was not supplying others with the drug.
But police prosecutor Stephen Hickey wasn't buying it.
There was far too much there for one person, he said.
"It was a lot of cannabis," Judge Chris Sygrove agreed.
Judge Sygrove acknowledged a lot of the plants were not fully grown but said there was an inference that if they were they may have been sold.
He remanded Almao to return to court for sentencing on March 4 and advised he bring with him any information from his doctor to support his claims.
A destruction order has been sought by police for the cannabis and all grow equipment.
The first release of public information on the two referendums to be held at next year’s General Election was made today with an informative new Government website going live.
Additionally, the draft Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill has been released, showing the strict controls on cannabis that will apply if the voters choose to legalise cannabis.
The first cross-party meeting on the Cannabis Bill will occur later this week.
“It is important that voters go into the 2020 General Election informed about the referendums. The Government is committed to a well-informed, impartial referendum process.
“By making the referendum questions and the initial draft Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill available early the intention is to encourage public awareness and discussion. It is important that the public feel they can meaningfully participate in the referendum process.
“I have invited representatives from each party represented in Parliament to meet with me this Thursday to provide their feedback on the draft Bill”
“My aim is to have the final draft Bill available by early next year, so there is time to argue for change,” says Justice Minister Andrew Little.
The wording of the cannabis referendum question has also been confirmed as a straight Yes/No question:
Do you support the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill?
The wording of the end of life choice referendum, previously announced, is also a straight Yes/No question:
Do you support the End of Life Choice Act 2017 coming into force?
The website, www.referendum.govt.nz provides information on the draft Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill and the End of Life Choice Act.
The website sets out key features of the draft law for the Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill.
“The primary objective of the legislation is to reduce overall cannabis use and limit the ability of young people to access cannabis,” Andrew Little said
Key restrictions on cannabis included in the draft Bill include:
In order for the 2020 cannabis referendum to be effective, the public need to know what will happen afterwards. A ‘No’ vote would mean continuation of the status quo. In the event of a ‘Yes’ vote, the parties making up the Government have committed to honouring voters’ choice at the referendum.
The new website also provides information on the End of Life Choice Act, which is also the subject of a referendum at the next Election.
As the legislation has already been through the House, a 50 per cent majority voting “Yes” at the Election will mean that the Act will come into force twelve months after the result is known.
Further information on each of the referendums, including downloadable fact sheets translated into multiple languages, will be added to the website next year.
Explanatory material on both referendums, will also be included in the Electoral Commission’s enrolment update and EasyVote card mailouts to voters in the lead-up to next year’s election.
“Experience from overseas tells us that provision of factual, explanatory information is vital for the public to be informed and for an outcome that can be accepted by voters even if the result is not what they voted for,” Andrew Little says.