Asia-Pacific

NZ to hold cannabis referendum in 2020

New Zealanders will vote on whether cannabis should be legalised in a referendum held during the country's next general election in 2020.

New Zealanders will be able to have their say if they want to see cannabis legalised at a referendum during the next general election in 2020.

The referendum will a simple Yes/No question on the basis of a draft piece of legislation, Justice Minister Andrew Little announced on Tuesday.

The draft legislation would include a minimum age of 20 to use and purchase recreational cannabis, regulations and commercial supply controls, limited home-growing options, a public education program and stakeholder engagement.

Little said the coalition government was committed to a health-based approach to drugs, to minimise harm and take control away from criminals.

The minister added that the voters' choice would be binding, but it will be to up to the next government to enact the law.

"We hope and expect the National Party will also commit to respecting the voters' decision," Little said.

The referendum on recreational cannabis use on or before the 2020 election was part of the supply agreement the Green Party negotiated with Labour.

"We've been clear from the beginning that a referendum needs to be based on a legal regime that people can see, understand and make informed decisions about," Green Party MP Chloe Swarbrick said in a statement.

A clear regulatory regime set out in draft legislation would "avoid any potential of a 'Brexit' situation because people will know exactly what the future holds, and how these changes will be implemented," she said.

It was now up to the National Party to let people know if they would honour the referendum or not.

Last year the New Zealand government passed legislation to legalise the use of medicinal cannabis and created a statutory defence for people eligible to use illicit cannabis for palliative care without fear of prosecution.

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