The regulation of cannabis is slowly changing across the world, with many countries moving to legalise both recreational and medicinal cannabis.
In New Zealand, there have been recent adjustments to allow access to medicinal cannabis - though it is tightly controlled. At the moment in our Parliament a bill before the House proposes to legalise cannabis for medicinal use, and at least two political parties are in full support of the legalisation of recreational cannabis through a regulated market.
Here's where the parties stand on drug policy, and in particular cannabis:
Liberalisation of cannabis law is opposed by New Zealand First - unless there is first a referendum. The party's justice policy supports "Attitudes which encourage rehabilitation rather than attack the abuse of drugs and alcohol." In terms of legalising medicinal cannabis the party is supportive, but has not yet taken a position on a bill before the house to legalise it. The party intends to decide after it has heard submissions to the bill. Read NZ First's policy.
National does not support the legalisation of cannabis. It's unclear whether the party will support a current bill before the house to legalise medicinal cannabis. While in Government National made an adjustment to the law to allow access to medicinal cannabis oil to be prescribed through medical practitioners, and Bill English has said he'd worry that legalising medicinal cannabis would lead to increased recreational use. The Government's national drug policy statement sets out an intention to minimise drug-related harm and promote health and wellbeing.
The Māori Party supports the legalisation of medicinal cannabis but would want to see a more robust discussion about the legalisation of recreational cannabis. The party supports a less punitive approach to drug use and more focus on rehabilitation, and an increase in kaupapa Māori drug residential treatment centres. The party would invest in more respite care bed for P addicts and more programmes for drug addiction in prisons. Read the party's policies.
ACT's sole MP David Seymour intends to vote for Green MP Julie Anne Genter's bill to legalise access to medicinal cannabis for those suffering a terminal illness or debilitating condition. He said while cannabis prohibition is failing, there's not enough broad public support for full legalisation. ACT wants the Government to officially and closely study places that have legalised cannabis to assess the costs and benefits.
The Opportunities Party (TOP) supports the full legalisation of cannabis. People would be permitted to grow no more than two plants at home but other than that it would be illegal to grow or deal cannabis outside of the regulated market. The age of use would be 20, but the recommendation would be not to use cannabis under the age of 25. TOP estimates the cannabis market would generate $150 million in tax revenue, to be used to fund drug and alcohol education and rehabilitation. Read the party's cannabis reform policy.
The Green Party also wants to legalise cannabis for personal use - including possession and cultivation - with a legal age limit. They would establish a licensed, regulated market with a minimum age requirement to be confirmed through the legislative process. Green MP Julie Anne Genter has put forward a bill to legalise medicinal cannabis and allow any person with a terminal illness, chronic or debilitating condition to grow, possess or use cannabis and cannabis products for therapeutic purposes. The party wants drug laws to be based on promoting health, rather than punishing users. Read the Green party's drug policy.
Labour supports the legalisation of medicinal cannabis, but leader Jacinda Ardern said the legislation of recreational cannabis would be a conscience issue and the party is not campaigning on it. Labour is in favour of treating cannabis use as a health issue, and dealing with it through the drug court. Ms Ardern was concerned about youth accessing the drug and believes it is harmful for young people, and hasn't commented on what position she would take in a conscience vote to legalise cannabis.