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Cannabis Law in New Zealand

Recreational cannabis is currently illegal under New Zealand law. The country has given a small number of patients special authorization to use cannabis products for medicinal purposes.

Current Legislation

Under New Zealand’s Misuse of Drugs Act 1975, cannabis is illegal to import, grow, sell, distribute, possess, and use. Marijuana is scheduled under Class C. Hashish and cannabis oil are scheduled under Class B.

First offenders of a minor infraction may be offered police “diversion,” which means they can avoid court by offering community service, a donation, or by attending counseling. The maximum penalty for possession of marijuana is three months jail and a $500 fine. Importing, cultivating, and supplying cannabis is susceptible to eight years imprisonment, while the maximum penalty for dealing hashish or oil is 14 years imprisonment.

The cultivation of cannabis, depending on the amount, can result in a 7 year jail term or an immediate 2 year jail term and/or a $2,000 fine.

The New Zealand government legalized the commercial cultivation of hemp in 2005. To receive a permit to cultivate, import, or sell hemp and its seeds, farmers must apply to the Ministry of Health and pay a fee of NZ$500 per license.

Medical Marijuana in New Zealand

New Zealand has legalized cannabis-based products for medical purposes. On February 8, 2017, Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne announced that patients no longer had to first obtain ministerial approval for cannabis products. Previously, the medicinal use of cannabis was illegal without the approval of the Minister, preventing many patients from getting access to cannabis. Dunne has said he plans to share a list of cannabis products that are either pharmaceutical grade or are certified as Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) products. Unfortunately, medical cannabis remains too expensive for most patients and doctors are hesitant to prescribe it. Advocates are continuing to fight for greater access to medical cannabis.

References:

Cannabis and the law. (n.d.). New Zealand Police. Retrieved from http://www.police.govt.nz/advice/drugs-and-alcohol/cannabis-and-law.

How to apply for a hemp permit. (n.d.). NORML. Retrieved from https://norml.org.nz/about/hemp/how-to-apply-for-a-hemp-permit/.

Law and penalties. (n.d.). NZ Drug Foundation. retrieved from https://www.drugfoundation.org.nz/cannabis/law-and-penalities.

Medical cannabis. (2015, December). NZ Drug Foundation. Retrieved from https://www.drugfoundation.org.nz/cannabis/medicinal-cannabis.

Prescribing cannabis-based products. (2016, May 19). Ministry of Health. Retrieved from http://www.health.govt.nz/our-work/regulation-health-and-disability-system/medicines-control/prescribing-cannabis-based-products.

  • September 1, 2016
  • Eve Ripley