Will New Zealand Legalize Recreational Cannabis in 2020?

New Zealand is set to hold a binding referendum on the topic of cannabis legalization during their 2020 general election.

The plan to hold the referendum was made official by New Zealand's Justice Minister Andrew Little back in December. Current support for some form of cannabis legalization (i.e. medical and/or recreational) in New Zealand is estimated to sit at 76 percent. Additionally, the move could prove to be quite lucrative for the NZ government. Economists predict that introducing a legal marijuana market would net NZ$240 million ($164.9 million USD) in tax dollars.

However, Opposition Leader Simon Bridges says there are still a number of issues that need to be worked out before people should get excited about the vote.

"We've got so little detail, so little meat on the bones I think we need to see," Bridges told Newshub recently. "Let's not have a vote and not know what the detail is going to be until afterwards."

There are two big mysteries surrounding the upcoming referendum right now. The first is what exactly will be asked on the ballot. The second is what the actual law changes might be. Of course, the election won't happen until November 21, 2020, so there is still well over a year to sort out the details.

New Zealand has made a number of other marijuana moves in recent months. In December 2018 the government enacted a law that would slowly improve their medical marijuana program and allow for the local production of medical marijuana products. Additionally, in August of the same year the New Zealand Ministry of Health granted the first cannabis cultivation license to Hikurangi Cannabis who will be growing marijuana intended for research purposes.

With the upcoming referendum New Zealand joins Mexico as one of the places poised to join Uruguay and Canada as countries that have legalized cannabis on a national scale within the next few years.


It’s no secret that my husband and I are longtime cannabis and hemp advocates. We’ve cheered as the majority of Americans have come around to supporting legalization, and applauded as cannabis law reform spreads from state to state. Still, decades of prohibitionist propaganda have left many in the dark about the powerful wellness potential of these long-demonized plants.

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