Updated May 2020
Recreational cannabis is currently illegal under New Zealand law, but lawmakers are working on a legalization bill. The country has already given a small number of patients special authorization to use cannabis products for medicinal purposes.
Recreational Marijuana in New Zealand
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.
In May 2020, New Zealand government officials published a draft of a proposed recreational marijuana legalization bill that includes a 20 years of age minimum and a maximum possession of 14 grams. The referendum will be presented to the public to vote on in September 2020. While the referendum is “non-binding,” it serves as an opportunity for the public to share their thoughts on legalization.
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.
Growing Cannabis in New Zealand
The cultivation of cannabis in New Zealand, 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.