Tag: new zealand

New Data Creates Cannabis Controversy In New Zealand

A little over a week ago we published an article describing how New Zealand’s Justice Minister threw cold water on calls for the nation to reform its cannabis laws. Calls had ramped up after United States President Joe Biden announced a plan to issue pardons to people convicted of federal cannabis possession in the U.S.

New Zealand Justice Minister Kiri Allan offered up various reasons for why new cannabis reform measures would not be pursued, specifically referencing a measure from 2019 that provided flexibility to law enforcement for cannabis cases.

“We have a slightly different context here. In 2019, we introduced the ability for the police to exercise discretion when it came to possession of cannabis offences,” Minister Allan stated earlier this month according to RNZ. “Subsequently, we’ve seen a radical reduction in terms of those that are convicted merely for cannabis possession.”

New data obtained by Newshub is putting into proper context how misleading Minister Allan’s claim truly is. Below is a chart of the actual cannabis enforcement numbers, via Newshub:


To be fair, the number of court actions did technically reduce from August 2019 to July 2022, however, it is clearly not enough of a reduction to be properly described as a “radical reduction” and certainly not enough of a reduction to warrant keeping cannabis prohibition in place.

Whenever members of law enforcement are allowed to decide when to arrest someone and when not to, it creates a situation that is ripe for selective enforcement. The only way to ensure that doesn’t happen is to end cannabis prohibition.

Cannabis advocates inside and outside of New Zealand will continue to call for meaningful reform regardless of the misleading talking points that are offered up by opponents. As momentum continues to increase outside of New Zealand’s borders for legalization it will become increasingly difficult for prohibitionists to maintain the status quo.

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People With A History Of Cannabis Use Do Not Exhibit More Severe Symptoms Of Psychosis

Just because someone has consumed cannabis and suffers from mental health struggles, that does not automatically mean that the cannabis consumption caused the mental health issues that the person is unfortunately experiencing.

That may seem like a logical statement, however, cannabis opponents do everything that they can to try to skirt that fact. To make matters worse, the reefer madness mental health propaganda efforts that cannabis opponents pursue is often assisted by mainstream media coverage that echoes their talking points without any context, which is a huge disservice to society.

Mental health is a very serious issue, and it should be treated as such. Facts and science should lead the way, and with that in mind, the results of a new study out of New Zealand further debunks the ‘cannabis makes you crazy’ talking point of opponents. Below is more information about it via a news release from NORML:

Christchurch, NZ: Those with a history of cannabis consumption do not exhibit more severe symptoms of psychosis than do those with no history of regular use, according to longitudinal data published in the New Zealand Medical Journal.

A team of New Zealand researchers assessed the relationship between marijuana use and the severity of psychotic symptomology in a cohort of over 1,200 subjects born in 1977. Investigators compared the symptom profile of cannabis consumers and non-consumers at age 18, 21, and at age 25.

Researchers reported that cannabis-consuming subjects were more likely than non-users to report experiencing a greater variety of psychotic symptoms overall. However, investigators acknowledged that consumers were not more likely to report experiencing severe symptoms.

Authors reported: “The present analyses sought to determine whether there was a qualitative difference in the kind of symptoms being reported by the two groups. … Both groups tended to report common, low-level symptoms (such as “having ideas or beliefs that others do not share”), and neither group was likely to report what would be considered as more severe positive symptoms of psychosis.”

They concluded: “Collectively, the results suggest that while those who were regular cannabis users reported a significantly greater number of symptoms than non-users, the symptom profile between the two groups did not differ, showing that there was no evidence of greater ‘severity’ among regular cannabis users.”

Although the use of cannabis and other controlled substances is more common among those with psychotic illnesses, studies indicate that lifetime incidences of marijuana-induced psychosis are relatively rare among those who do not already have a prior diagnosis of a psychiatric disease.

Full text of the study, “Cannabis use and patterns of psychotic symptomology in a longitudinal birth cohort,” appears in the New Zealand Medical Journal.

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New Zealand Justice Minister Throws Cold Water On Cannabis Reform Hopes

Last week United States President Joe Biden announced a plan to issue pardons to people convicted of a federal cannabis possession charge. The plan is estimated to affect as many as 6,500 people, although only time will tell what the final number ends up being.

In the meantime, other elected officials around the globe are chiming in on the matter, with many demanding that their own nations take similar action as the U.S. did. One of those nations is New Zealand, however, New Zealand’s Justice Minister made it clear that there are no plans to do so any time soon.

Pointing To Prior Measures

New Zealand Green Party drug reform spokesperson Chlöe Swarbrick appears to be leading the charge when it comes to demands for cannabis reform in New Zealand. Swarbrick referred to the United States as ‘the birthplace of the war on drugs,’ and that if the United States can pursue federal cannabis reform, then so too can New Zealand.

In response to those calls for reform, Justice Minister Kiri Allan pointed to a prior reform measure that was passed in 2019 giving law enforcement some discretion over how to penalize people for cannabis. Minister Allan also pointed to the results of the 2020 referendum measure vote as justification for not pursuing further reform.

“We have a slightly different context here. In 2019, we introduced the ability for the police to exercise discretion when it came to possession of cannabis offences,” Minister Allan stated according to RNZ. “Subsequently, we’ve seen a radical reduction in terms of those that are convicted merely for cannabis possession.”

A Breeding Ground For Selective Enforcement

Giving law enforcement the ability to issue a fine in lieu of arresting someone for cannabis is obviously better than requiring law enforcement to arrest someone for cannabis. However, providing the multiple options and still giving law enforcement the ability to arrest some people and not others is a breeding ground for selective enforcement. It’s great that convictions are down in New Zealand, yet it would clearly be better if the convictions were zero.

It’s very unfortunate that so many elected officials in New Zealand appear to be pushing the talking point that the outcome of the 2020 referendum is absolute, as if it was the final answer when it comes to cannabis policy in New Zealand. That talking point completely disregards the fact that the outcome was extremely close, and that 48.4% of people voted for the measure (1,406,973 people). Cannabis policies are evolving in many places across the globe, and that needs to happen in New Zealand as well.

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cannabis plant garden

New Zealand Approves Sale Of Domestic Cannabis Products

The island nation has relied on exports to treat patients so far. Allowing the dispensation of domestically cultivated cannabis will help the nascent industry grow and lower overall costs

Last week, New Zealand officials approved the beginning of the domestically sourced medical cannabis market. The Department of Health began allowing local producers to supply patients as of September 9. This has, of course, created new opportunities for domestic companies which have already established themselves in hopes of exporting to other countries.

Under the 2020 New Zealand Medical Cannabis Legalization Act, licensed doctors can prescribe cannabis to any patient and for any medical condition. However up until now, all of this had to be imported – mostly from Australia and Canada.

Two medicines have already been approved for local dispensation.

The first New Zealand cannabis company to achieve global GMP standards only happened last year.

A Shorter Supply Chain (and Lower Costs)

Unlike Germany, which only has three producers and, thanks to the highly stringent language of the first medical cultivation bid, imports the vast majority of the same, most of the medical cannabis in the New Zealand market will begin to be sourced domestically. It is unclear whether legalization of recreational cannabis will change that. In the meantime, Germany has been one of the top targets of New Zealand producers so far, as has South America.

That said, given the aftermath of Covid, with its disrupted supply chains, not to mention the much higher costs of energy, New Zealand’s decision may be replicated elsewhere – including countries in Europe.

Will a Switch to Domestic Supply Move Reform Forward?

It is highly likely, in addition to lowering costs – and expanding domestic patient numbers, that the decision to source domestically will also drive the “other” cannabis discussion forward too. This has been the case in many other places as medical use expanded. Indeed, in Germany, public support for recreational cannabis reform has increased steadily for the past five years since full medical reform became reality.

In 2020, the recreational discussion was narrowly defeated in New Zealand, when it was put up for a referendum vote during the last national election by 51-48%.

However, with more patients, and greater awareness of the efficacy of medical cannabis at home, attitudes are likely to continue to shift in support of full legalization.

Patients and their advocates are obviously ecstatic about the victory, which has, like everywhere else, been a long time in coming.

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Domestic Cannabis Is Finally Coming To New Zealand

New Zealand nearly became the third country to pass an adult-use cannabis legalization measure back in 2020. The referendum measure failed by just over 2% of the vote. Had the referendum succeeded, New Zealand would have become the first country on earth to pass a national cannabis legalization measure at the ballot box versus via legislative action. Unfortunately, it proved to be a missed opportunity.

New Zealand was already home to a medical cannabis program, however, the program was very limited. While that will still largely be the case, there’s at least one component of the country’s medical cannabis program that is going to see improvement in the near future.

Government officials in New Zealand have finally granted permission for domestic medical cannabis cultivation. Per Newshub:

The Ministry of Health has just approved homegrown and manufactured medicines – so Kiwis no longer have to rely on imported medicinal cannabis.

This green gold has been given the green light by health officials to be turned into medicine for Kiwis patients.

“It’s something the whole industry has been working towards,” Helius Therapeutics CEO Carmen Doran said.

New Zealand is currently home to roughly three dozen medical cannabis companies, however, they are all operating on an import/export model. Allowing domestic cultivation will likely prove to be a gamechanger for the nation’s emerging cannabis industry.

Cannabis imports and exports will always play a role in the emerging cannabis industry, and should not be avoided entirely. With that being said, no country’s medical cannabis program will never reach its full potential without allowing some form of domestic cultivation.

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New Zealand’s Cannabis Eradication Operation Is A Complete Waste Of Money

New Zealand came very close to becoming just the third country to legalize cannabis for adult use, and if it had done so, would have become the first to legalize cannabis via a citizen vote.

Uruguay was the first to legalize cannabis the better part of a decade ago now, and Canada became the second country to legalize cannabis for adult use nearly 4 years ago. Both countries legalized cannabis via legislative action.

In New Zealand, where activists have worked very hard for many years, voters got to weigh in on a cannabis referendum measure back in 2020. Unfortunately, the measure was narrowly defeated by a vote of 51.47% to 48.53%.

As we now know, the failed vote in New Zealand paved the way for a different country, Malta, to eventually become the third country to legalize cannabis for adult use.

So where does cannabis reform stand in New Zealand roughly 1.5 years after the failed cannabis legalization vote? Two top lawmakers in New Zealand recently published a rare dual op-ed (for Stuff).

The op-ed provided a ‘for’ argument in support of cannabis reform by Arena Williams (Te Aitanga-a-Māhaki, Ngāi Tahu, Ngāi Tūhoe), Labour MP for the Auckland electorate of Manurewa, and an ‘against’ argument in support of continued prohibition by Stuart Smith, National MP for the South Island electorate of Kaikōura.

The first paragraph, copied and pasted below, really summed up how ineffective prohibition is in New Zealand:

Senior police say the annual cannabis eradication operation, costing $700,000, a year, does nothing to reduce the supply or raise the price of marijuana on the street and distracts from targeting gangs, guns and meth.

The ‘core operating budget‘ for New Zealand’s current fiscal year is in the billions, so from that perspective, $700,000 is not a lot. However, it’s still a huge waste of money, as apparently pointed out by ‘senior police.’ So what is the point?

From my perspective, the country’s cannabis eradication program is nothing more than symbolic, presumably meant to serve as something for prohibitionists to point to as ‘proof’ that the country is fighting the unregulated cannabis industry.

How many school books does $700,000 buy? Meals for children? That money could be better spent on virtually any other public need.

In his portion of the op-ed, MP Smith seems to argue that cannabis prohibition should be the law of the land forever, that the public voted, and the result is final. That is unfortunate and does not actually reflect reality.

Yes, voters in New Zealand defeated the measure that was put before them in 2020. However, it’s just one general form of legalization, and with just a few policy tweaks it’s likely that more people would support it.

Prohibition is a failed public policy and is tremendously harmful to society. That is true in New Zealand, and everywhere else that prohibition exists. Rather than cling to prohibition, all lawmakers in New Zealand need to get on the rights side of history and pass reforms that make sense for the country.

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cannabis seedling plant outdoor garden

Cannabis Activists Plant Cannabis On New Zealand Parliament Grounds

Effective cannabis activism can take on different forms depending on the time and setting. Despite what some activists may claim, there really is no ‘perfect’ way to do cannabis activism. Proper cannabis activism incorporates a diversity of tactics, with some tactics perhaps being more unorthodox than others.

One form of activism that has occurred in multiple places around the world over the years involves advocates planting cannabis seeds or clones on high-profile government properties. The latest example of the tactic recently occurred in New Zealand where plants suspected to be cannabis were discovered on the grounds of the nation’s Parliament. Per NewsHub:

Images posted to Twitter on Thursday show small, green, leafy plants growing out of the bark in a garden on the forecourt.

The suspicious plants caught the attention of Speaker Trevor Mallard, whose only response to the situation was “we are weeding out the weed”.

It hasn’t been confirmed if the plants are indeed cannabis but Dakta Green, founder of New Zealand’s first cannabis club The Daktory, said it’s possible.

“From the photo, it appears green fairies have been sprinkling peace and love. Closer inspection required for [a] definitive answer,” Green tweeted in response to the photos.

It’s worth pointing out, as the article excerpt touches on, that the plants were not 100% confirmed to be cannabis via a lab test prior to being removed and destroyed by government officials. However, they clearly appear to be cannabis plants and if they were not, it’s likely that they would have been left in the ground, at least for a little longer.

Planting cannabis seeds may seem to be a silly tactic to some people in the international cannabis community. Yet, if you consider how much media attention the stunt received, and that the media coverage highlighted the fact that New Zealand continues to prohibit cannabis, then perhaps it’s not that silly of a tactic after all.

New Zealand voters narrowly defeated a cannabis legalization referendum measure in 2020. Unfortunately, it is unclear when voters will get another chance to weigh in on the issue.

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cannabis hemp leaf

Australia And New Zealand Renew Commitment To Medical Cannabis

The APAC region of the world continues to develop its medical cannabis industry – but no word yet about further reform

Australia and New Zealand may well be “down under” but they are continuing to develop their medical cannabis sectors.

In Australia, the British study and trial Project Twenty21 has announced that they are expanding to the country. Project Twenty21 was launched in 2019 in the UK. The goal was to establish a national body of evidence about the efficacy of cannabis and provide patients with cannabinoid medicines at a discount. The additional cost was underwritten by licensed producers who agreed to participate. Patients had to agree that their medical data could be collected by the organization managing the effort – Drug Science.

The plan originally was to enrol 20,000 patients by the end of 2021, but so far, only 2,000 patients have joined the study. The project has been extended in the UK until the end of this year. In the meantime, the project will unroll in Australia. Releaf Clinics will be the local partner organization. Study participants will have to complete annual questionnaires and attend the participating clinics. Current users of cannabis will be excluded from the trial, which is expected to enrol about 1,000 patients.

Just a skip and a hop across the Tasman Sea, New Zealand has also just announced that it is committed to its existing cannabis scheme. The health minister Andrew Little has reiterated that the government remains dedicated to its new Medicinal Cannabis Scheme, addressing critics who have said the program is too stringent. Little said that the country will source its cannabis via firms who comply with GMP standards even though critics have said this standard creates a cost barrier for patients that is often prohibitive.

How Will This Development Impact the Global Industry?

Both Australia and New Zealand are continuing to establish their presence on the international cannabis scene even while developing their own national markets. Australia has begun importing cannabis from other countries even as some of its producers are also finding their way to Europe. New Zealand has its sights set clearly on establishing a European market for its cannabis exports. Firms are already scouring the landscape for partners.

However, the continued expansion of both two country’s medical markets and additional demand (and supply) of medicinal cannabis will do several things. It will create two more viable medical markets and will contribute to the now continued downward pressure on the price.

Many cannabis patients are not able to participate in legal programs simply because the cost of the drug is still too expensive.

Be sure to attend the International Cannabis Business Conference events in Europe in 2022, including Barcelona, Berlin, and Zurich!

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cannabis infused tea

Medical Cannabis Tea Is Now Legal In New Zealand

New Zealand was very close to becoming the third country to legalize cannabis for adult use back in 2020. Voters in New Zealand narrowly rejected a legalization referendum measure in 2020, with the measure losing by less than 2 percentage points.

The title of ‘third country to legalize’ ultimately went to Malta, which passed a legalization measure late last year. The failed vote in New Zealand was a missed opportunity to be sure, however, cannabis reform is still moving forward in other ways.

Medical cannabis was already legal in New Zealand prior to the failed referendum vote, and recently medical cannabis flower was permitted for limited use. Per excerpts from an article first published by Newshub:

The cannabis buds from Australian pharmaceutical company ANTG have approval from the Ministry of Health to be prescribed to patients with chronic pain, but only in the form of a tea.

“This is a great day for New Zealand, just across the Tasman they’ve had dried flowers available to be prescribed by doctors for at least two to three years – we’ve been waiting a long time for this,” Green Doctors co-founder Mark Hotu says.

While this cannabis flower contains less than one percent THC, others due on the market later in the year will contain much more.

It is always perplexing why lawmakers and regulators around the globe seem to be so scared of cannabis flower. A number of jurisdictions that permit medical cannabis products simultaneously continue to ban sales of dried flower.

The reasoning offered up for such flower bans always seems to hinge on lawmakers and regulators wanting to deter patients from combusting and inhaling cannabis flower.

What that reasoning fails to account for is that some patients benefit more from smoking and/or vaporizing inhaled flower compared to ingesting cannabis via a pill or tincture or other delivery methods. It also doesn’t account for the fact that patients will still seek out unregulated flower if it’s not available legally, and the end result of the ban is simply that patients will be consuming less-safe medicine.

Suffering patients deserve to have unimpeded, safe access to any and all forms of cannabis that help treat their condition. It’s the logical and compassionate approach that every country needs to pursue via every reasonable means necessary, including in New Zealand.

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