Two drug policy experts have identified gaps and challenges in New Zealand’s proposal to legalize recreational marijuana. Before the widely monitored national referendum vote will take place this September, Associate Professor Chris Wilkins and Dr. Marta Rychert from Massey University debated on the pages Addiction that the New Zealand Cannabis Bill and Control Bill needs to be strengthened in two important areas:
Set official minimum prices for cannabis: Legalization of cannabis in other jurisdictions has resulted in a significant reduction in the legal price of cannabis. The minimum unit price has proven effective in reducing the level of alcohol consumption and related hazards. The CLCB includes the discretionary authority to raise the excise tax on cannabis for a maximum of 12 months if the price of cannabis falls below a level consistent with the objectives of the Act. This discretionary power does not have clear criteria for activation and thus does not meet clear minimum price requirements.
Lower the potential limit for cannabis products: High potency of cannabis is associated with increased acceptance of first-time cannabis treatment, a transition to daily use, cannabis dependence and a higher risk of recurrence of psychosis and psychosis. The maximum potential level of CLCB for cannabis plants (15% THC) appears to be at the higher end of what is currently found on the black market in New Zealand. The potential levels for edibles and extracts are expressed as milligrams “per unit” and “per package” without defining what constitutes a unit or package. (Edibles and concentrates will not initially be sold but they are included in the CLCB for future approval.)
Wilkins and Rychert also identified two CLCB public health goals that would be difficult to achieve:
Difficulty reducing cannabis from time to time through the commercial market: The CLCB mostly proposes the commercial cannabis market with provisions for non-commercial and non-profit supplies. The CLCB’s goal of reducing cannabis use over time appears to contradict the proposed commercial cannabis sector, which will focus on expanding sales. Non-commercial or non-profit operators can provide legal access to cannabis while avoiding profit-driven commercial companies.
Difficulties taxing products based on THC potential: CLCB proposes a progressive excise product based on the potential and weight of THC. Considerable work will be required to implement potential tax-based, including consistent sampling procedures, certified testing facilities, and effective audits to prevent producers from playing the system. Also, the reliability and replication of THC testing is problematic. Heavy taxation (similar to tobacco tax) can be a more practical alternative for now.
Dr Wilkins said: “The New Zealand referendum election will be the first time a country has had the opportunity to vote on a comprehensive regulatory framework to legalize cannabis rather than the general question asking whether marijuana should be legal or not. Therefore it is important that New New Zealand voters clearly understand the strengths and weaknesses of the proposed CLCB. ”
Wilkins and Rychert provided feedback on the first draft of the CLCB to the New Zealand Ministry of Justice Referendum Team, along with a number of other anonymous experts and public commentators. The authors do not receive financial or non-financial remuneration for these comments.
Peer reviewed: Yes
Study type: Policy analysis
Research subjects: People
Funding: Government / research council
This paper is free to download for one month from the Wiley Online Library: https: /
To talk with lead author Dr. Chris Wilkins: contact him at Massey University (New Zealand) via email ([email protected]) or telephone (+64 (09) 414 0800 ext. 41330).
Complete quote for the article: Wilkins C and Rychert M (2020) Assessing the Legalization and Control of the New Zealand Cannabis Bill: Prospects and Challenges. Addiction 115: doi: 10.1111 / add.15144.
Funding: The work in this paper is supported by external research funding from the New Zealand Royal Society Marsden Grant (MFP_MAU1813).
Addiction is a monthly international scientific journal that publishes peer research reports on alcohol, substances, tobacco and gambling as well as editorials and other debates. Owned by the Society for Dependency Studies, it has been published continuously since 1884. Addiction ISI’s journal number two in the 2019 Journal of Citation Report ranks in the substance abuse category (science and social science edition).
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