A trio of influential MPs will headline the first ever New Zealand Conference on Cannabis Referendum as efforts to legalize marijuana gather pace across the country.
Green Party MP Chlöe Swarbrick and Labour MPs Greg O’Connor and Ginny Anderson will be joined by leading doctors, academics and economists at the conference. It takes place in Wellington on November 9 and the chief aim is to discuss how supporters can ensure they win the promised referendum on legalizing personal use of cannabis.
In October 2017 Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that New Zealand would host a referendum in the next three years. Politicians are mulling over whether to hold it in 2019 as they worry it would be unwise to hold it at the 2020 general election. Many politicians do not want the conversation around legalizing cannabis to dominate the election campaign, so they are likely to hold it next year instead.
No details have been given thus far on the format of the cannabis referendum, the timing or the education process that will precede the public vote. The panel of MPs will discuss the mechanism of the referendum, and the conference aims to bring together the many groups and individuals that desire “an end to failed prohibitionist policies”.
“Uruguay led the world with full legalisation of cannabis, and with Canada and South Africa both recently moving to legalize cannabis, and some Commonwealth countries and many American States following suit, it’s time for a change in New Zealand, to end this destructive and failed law and make it legal,” said conference organiser Phil Saxby.
The conference will look at a number of options in a legal, regulated market for recreational cannabis, including marijuana social clubs and home cultivation. Speakers include Dr Eric Crampton, chief economist with the New Zealand Initiative in Wellington, Medical Cannabis Awareness New Zealand founder Shane Le Brun and activist Rebecca Reider, with support from NORML NZ, The Hemp Foundation, Socialist Aotearoa, People Against Prisons and Auckland Patients Group, all of whom want to see cannabis legalized in New Zealand.
Medical marijuana is expected to be legalized in the country by March 2019, but patients will have to wait until at least mid-2020 to legally get it, according to a Ministry of Health document. Act to National’s associate health spokesman Shane Reti called the delay “unacceptable”.