elcome to the cannabis cafe. Have a seat, scan the menu and the ‘‘budtender’’ will take your order.
This could be a typical scenario if this year’s referendum on the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill receives a majority ‘‘yes’’ vote.
The proposed Bill sets out how the Government could regulate possession and consumption of cannabis, including the options to grow a small number of plants at home, or buying cannabis at licensed businesses.
A ‘‘yes’’ majority would allow for the incoming Government to introduce the Bill to Parliament after the general election.
Before the election, TJ Irvin, of Hawea, is hoping to create a mock-up of what a retail cannabis store could look like.
‘‘The biggest thing we are trying to do is just educate and regulate,’’ Mr Irwin said.
The businessman and entrepreneur had seen examples in places including Colorado, Washington and Amsterdam where ‘‘budtenders’’ would operate like bartenders, explaining a menu of cannabis-related products and offering advice.
The Bill could ensure young people had an informed environment when encountering recreational cannabis, Mr Irvin said.
‘‘I don’t want my kids to grow up like I did — the street taught me about drugs, because there was a total ban on all drugs.’’
His mocked-up store, using pictures on shelves instead of product, could ‘‘show people what a potential retailer might look like’’.
‘‘Right now the Government is saying ‘hey look, this is a possibility’ but they are not really showing anyone what exists,’’ he said.
Alexandra business owner Steve Farquhar used to work at the National Poisons Centre at the Dunedin School of Medicine and studied pharmacology at the University of Otago.
One of his papers was on cannabis and cannabinoids and he supported the medicinal use of cannabinoids, but he thought smoking cannabis was still as harmful as smoking tobacco.
‘‘I still am not convinced that there are no detrimental effects on the development of the brain,’’ Mr Farquhar said.
He did not think the proposed legislation went far enough in terms of preventing a ‘‘black market’’ supply to people under 20 years and he was planning to vote no in the referendum.
‘‘You could argue that is still the same with alcohol, but if you put it in the same boat I think the risk of potential social harm from both is still significant.’’
Say Nope to Dope campaign spokesman Aaron Ironside, of Auckland, questioned using a system similar to that in place for alcohol as the model for cannabis regulation.
‘‘Alcohol is hardly a public health success,’’ Mr Ironside said.
Although alcohol was a legal and regulated industry, ‘‘how has regulation gone in terms of protecting young people from alcohol?’’.
Having licensed premises where cannabis could be sold and consumed did nothing to protect young people, he said.
‘‘In reality, for young people, cannabis is incredibly dangerous.’’
Purpose of cannabis Bill to reduce harm
In this year’s general election people can vote in a referendum on whether the recreational use of cannabis should become legal.
Parliament has proposed the Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill, which aims to control and regulate how people can produce, supply, or consume cannabis.
The Bill’s main purpose is to reduce cannabis-related harm in the community.
It does not cover medicinal cannabis, hemp, driving while impaired, or workplace health and safety issues. These are covered by existing laws.
The Bill would legalise restricted access to cannabis and allow people to possess and consume cannabis in limited circumstances.
A person aged 20 or over would be able to:
– Buy up to 14g of dried cannabis (or its equivalent) per day from licensed outlets;
– enter licensed premises where cannabis is sold or consumed;
– consume cannabis on private property or at a licensed premise;
– grow up to two plants, with a maximum of four plants per household;
– and share up to 14g of dried cannabis (or its equivalent) with another person aged 20 or over.
The Bill aims to reduce cannabis-related harm to individuals, families and communities by:
– Providing access to legal cannabis that meets quality and potency requirements;
– eliminating the illegal supply of cannabis;
– raising awareness of the health risks associated with cannabis use;
– restricting young people’s access to cannabis;
– limiting the public visibility of cannabis;
– requiring health warnings on packaging and at the time of purchase;
– improving access to health and social services, and other kinds of support for families;
– and making sure the response to any breach of the law is fair.
The Bill would also regulate how cannabis is produced and supplied by:
– Limiting the total amount of licensed cannabis for sale;
– controlling the potency and contents of licensed cannabis and cannabis products;
– applying an excise tax when a product is packaged and labelled for sale;
– setting up a licensing system under which all cannabis-related businesses must hold a licence;
– regulating location and trading hours for premises where cannabis is sold or consumed, in consultation with local communities;
– banning people from importing cannabis and allowing only licensed businesses to import cannabis seeds;
– and separating businesses that are licensed to grow cannabis and produce cannabis products, from businesses that are licensed to operate premises where cannabis can be sold and consumed.
If more than 50% of people vote ‘‘yes’’ in the referendum, recreational cannabis would not become legal straight away.
After the election, the incoming Government can introduce a Bill to Parliament that would legalise and control cannabis.
This process would include the opportunity for the public to share their thoughts and ideas on how the law might work.
Medicinal cannabis and hemp will not be affected by the outcome of the referendum.