Cannabis legalisation and control

31 Jul, 2020

In this year’s general election on 19 September 2020, the public can vote on whether the recreational use of cannabis should become legal, based on the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill.

Information to help people decide how they will vote in the referendum

The Office of the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor has summarised what we know about the possible impacts of legalising cannabis. It weights up the pros and cons of cannabis legalisation and the current system (prohibition), including how might legalisation change the mental health impacts of cannabis.

More detailed information about the impacts of cannabis prohibition and legalisation for Māori is available in Theodore et al (2020): Cannabis, the cannabis referendum and Māori youth: a review from a lifecourse perspective, Kōtuitui: New Zealand Journal of Social Sciences Online.

The National Cannabis Dialogue Report (Thunderbird Partnership Foundation 2019) provides a national snapshot of views and recommendations for moving forward with cannabis legalisation in First Nations communities in Canada. Canada legalised recreational cannabis in 2018.

The Mental Health Foundation does not have a position either for or against the legalisation of recreational cannabis.

Our focus is making sure that, if more than 50 percent of people vote 'Yes' in the referendum, the Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill then considered by Parliament takes a strong public health and harm minimisation approach and that addiction services, including those that follow kaupapa Māori treatment models, are sufficiently funded and supported.

Remember, in the event of a 'Yes' vote in the referendum, recreational cannabis wouldn't become legal straight away. A Bill would need to be introduced and passed by Parliament before cannabis would become legal. This process would include the opportunity for the public to share their thoughts and ideas on how the law might work – so make sure you have a say!

We also informed the early thinking behind the Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill and you can read our 2019 submission to the Ministry of Justice.

Useful websites

The official website with information about the referendum and the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill is

Make sure you’re enrolled to vote in the referendum! Enrol to vote or update your information online with the Electoral Commission here