Experts pick holes in proposed cannabis legislation

cannabis legislation

Two drug policy experts have identified gaps and challenges in New Zealand’s proposal for legalizing recreational cannabis.

Associate Professor Chris Wilkins and Dr Marta Rychert of Massey University argue in Addiction that New Zealand’s Cannabis Legislation and Control Bill (CLCB) needs to be strengthened in two critical areas:

Set a formal minimum price for cannabis

The legalisation of cannabis in other jurisdictions has resulted in significant declines in the legal price of cannabis.

Minimum unit pricing has been shown to be effective at reducing alcohol consumption levels and related harms.

The CLCB includes a discretionary power to raise the excise tax for cannabis for a maximum of 12 months if the price of cannabis drops below the level consistent with the purposes of the Act.

This discretionary power lacks clear criteria for activation and thus falls short of a clear minimum price provision.

Lower the potency cap for cannabis products

High potency cannabis is associated with increasing first-time cannabis treatment admissions, transition to daily use, cannabis dependence and a higher risk of psychosis and psychosis relapse.

In the proposed cannabis legislation maximum potency levels for cannabis plant (15% THC) appears to be at the higher end of those currently found in the black market in New Zealand.

Potency levels for edibles and extracts are expressed as milligrams “per unit” and “per package” without defining what constitutes a unit or package. (Edibles and concentrates will not initially be sold but they are included in the CLCB for future approval.)

Wilkins and Rychert also argue that there are two public health objectives of the CLCB that will be difficult to achieve:

Difficulties reducing cannabis use over time via a commercial market

The CLCB objective of lowering cannabis use over time appears at odds with the proposed commercial cannabis sector, which will focus on expanding sales.

Non-commercial or not-for-profit operators can provide legal access to cannabis while avoiding profit-driven commercial companies.

Difficulties taxing products by THC potency

Considerable work will be required to implement a potency-based tax, including consistent sampling procedures, certified testing facilities, and effective auditing to prevent producers gaming the system.

Also, the reliability and replicability of testing THC is problematic. A weight-based tax (similar to the taxation of tobacco) may be a more practical alternative for now.


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News category: New Zealand.

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