What You Need to Know About the 2020 Referendum

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We’ll forgive you if you’re not one to follow politics. After all, there are so many different political parties in New Zealand – all with different agendas, and it can be hard to keep up! While many of the policies can fade into the background noise, there’s one that has been front and centre since the 2017 general elections, and that’s the 2020 New Zealand Cannabis Referendum.

If you’re not sure what this means, or what this means for you, then read on. Below, we provide some of the more necessary information you need to know before 2020! But for now, hold your horses on stocking up on smoking supplies in NZ for cannabis just yet, there’s still work left to do!

There’s a Time Limit on the Referendum

The first thing you need to know is that there’s a time limit for the 2020 referendum to occur. The deal is, this referendum must take place (along with the election) by November 21, 2020.

Why Now?

You wouldn’t believe it, but New Zealand has one of the highest use rates of cannabis in the world. At least 16 percent of survey respondents called themselves current users, and over half said they had tried it at least once.

Cannabis is illegal. Most New Zealanders know that, but around 70,000 people break the law every day to use it – and over half a million regularly. There are too many cannabis users to arrest! What’s more, even during law changes that called for harsher penalties for cannabis users, the use of it rose by 20 percent between 1990 and 1998.

Those figures are surprising, but that’s not why a law change may be in the pipelines, and why people are getting prematurely excited about buying smoking supplies in NZ. The reason for the referendum is down to a confidence and supply agreement between the Labour Party and the Green Party.

For the Green Party to work with the Labour Party, the Labour Party had to agree to a cannabis law reform referendum. The agreement would not only include legal personal use of cannabis but a funding increase for drug and alcohol addiction services and to treat drug use as a health issue. A follow-on effect would be that sick people accessing medicinal marijuana would not be penalised.

What Do the Laws Say Now?

According to Police, penalties relating to cannabis can range from between a $500 fine and a 14-year jail term for supply to manufacture. If you cultivate, sow, or plant, you can receive a $2,000 fine, a two-year jail term, or a seven-year jail term. The penalty can vary on a case-by-case basis.

Right now, more money is spent on enforcing prohibition than education and treatment. In 2006, Police also spent nearly 600,000 hours enforcing drug laws. Just three years later, almost 70 percent of the 250,000 drug offences were made up of personal possession and use charges.

Current laws also allow for one legal cannabis-based pharmaceutical, Sativex. However, this is not funded, and patients have to meet strict criteria – if they can afford to purchase it in the first place.

What Do the Public Want?

No one knows which way the wind is blowing on whether to legalise cannabis or not until the 2020 referendum takes place. There have been several polls, but results can change depending on the avenue.

A 1 News Colmar Brunton Poll in June 2019, with a 1,002 sample size voted 52 against and 39 for. The previous month, a Horizon Research poll found 52 for and 37 against. The remainder was in the ‘undecided’ category. The previous three polls between July 2018 and October 2018 held a majority ‘for’ cannabis legalisation as well.

What Will Be in the Referendum?

The Justice Minister, Andrew Little, announced back in May 2019, that voters will be able to approve or reject draft legislation. Your choices will be clear – yes or no.

The draft legislation also outlines what would happen in the event of a resounding ‘yes’. That would include a minimum age of 20 to buy and grow, controls on commercial supply, and home growing limitations.

Is it Binding or Non-Binding?

It’s all well and good to go in and vote, with either yes or no being the result, but what does it all mean? Does a resounding ‘yes’ actually mean a yes? Will you be able to go out and stock up on smoking supplies in NZ and light up in the comfort of your home?

The 2020 Cannabis Referendum has been labelled as ‘binding,’ but it doesn’t appear to be the case at all. If National were to take power at the general elections, they have not committed to enacting on the result – be it yes or no.

Who Has Endorsed the 2020 Referendum?

Cannabis Referendum Coalition, Health Not Handcuffs Coalition, and New Zealand Drug Foundation have all voted yes. Family First New Zealand has voted no.


The 2020 referendum is just around the corner, and it’s time to do your homework. Choose your side of the fence. Are you for legalisation of cannabis or against? Decide and be ready for the 2020 New Zealand Cannabis Referendum. Your vote is important.