It can be very tempting to smoke weed when in New Zealand as it is available there in abundant amounts. Moreover, more and more residents of the country are smoking pot for both recreational and medical purposes.
Therefore, it is not too unlikely that you will get invited to a pot session at one point during your travel there. If you are a resident, it is even likely for you to think about growing your own weed or selling some.
Whatever your intention or reason for wanting to engage in marijuana, you have to know the relevant laws in place in New Zealand.
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A Few Basics
Cannabis may be abundant in New Zealand, but it remains a prohibited drug. Both marijuana plant and seed are classified as “Class C” (moderate risk) substances and covered by the 1975 Misuse of Drug Acts.
A lot of lobbyists and marijuana activists claim that the laws that are currently being implemented in New Zealand regarding cannabis use, especially recreational purposes, are archaic and need to be updated. However, proposals and negotiations are still ongoing.
For now, recreational marijuana use, selling, and growing are still illegal in New Zealand, and medical cannabis is available only to verified patients. Such groups as the so-called Green Party are calling for reform; one of the proposed changes is for legal consequences to be waived for adults older than 18 for smoking pot. However, we are yet to see any significant change from these efforts.
Selling Marijuana in New Zealand
According to the law in New Zealand, being in possession of at least 28 grams of cannabis, which is equivalent to approximately 100 joints, makes you a suspected dealer. If caught with this much cannabis (including seeds), your case will be handled by the country’s so-called Crown Court. That is officially called a conviction or an indictment.
If proven that you are indeed selling your stash, you will be subject to legal sanctions, among which is up to eight years of jail time.
Buying Cannabis in New Zealand
New Zealand has rigorous restrictions and severe sanctions against individuals engaging in any activity related to marijuana. In general, the government maintains its conservative stand against cannabis use and its stern treatment of indicted violators.
In fact, the country is so strict that it lifted the restriction regarding the use of medical marijuana extract just earlier this year, and this decision would not have been made had it not been for the efforts of a mother whose son died because of not getting medical-grade cannabis as first-line treatment.
Even so, the reform on medical marijuana is not absolute. First of all, the extract is a CBD product, which is still far from the entire plant. Second, similar to other countries, medical cannabis in New Zealand is not subsidized like other prescription medication; hence, you have to pay for it out of pocket if you are a patient.
Most doctors in the country are not too thrilled about the lifted restriction against the use of CBD for treatment because they themselves are skeptical. This means that you either have to convince your physician that what you need is medical marijuana or find a doctor who is open to it.
The bottom-line is that although medical weed is now allowed in New Zealand, a lot of patients still largely rely on the black market to get their medication. There is no sense in shelling out for expensive medicine that you can get for a cheaper price while maintaining the same quality.
Growing Marijuana in New Zealand
The cultivation of cannabis in New Zealand is illegal, regardless of whether it is for recreational or medicinal purposes. New Zealand police are constantly hot on the heels of suspected growers and even urging farmers and residents to be vigilant and report any suspicious persons who might be cultivating marijuana.
Dedicated to destroying the cannabis supply chain, police in New Zealand go so far as conduct aerial searches to locate marijuana farms and crops throughout the country. All seized crops are destroyed, and an asset and cash procured by selling cannabis can be confiscated as well.
The lightest sanction for cannabis-related offenses is a fine of $500 (possession), and the most severe is a 14-year imprisonment (manufacture or supply).
For the cultivation of cannabis, penalties depend on the quantity cultivated. You can end up with an immediate 2-year imprisonment or a 7-year term upon indictment. The corresponding fine can reach $2000.
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Youth and Marijuana in New Zealand
In New Zealand, if a youth under 17 years old is caught in possession of or smoking marijuana, they can be arrested. The subsequent actions of law enforcement depend on how many times the same youth has been caught for the same offense and the quantity of weed seized from them.
For first offenders who are caught with small amounts of cannabis only (that is, not enough volume to make them a suspected dealer), they are handled by the Police Youth Aid. The interventions that may be applied include warnings, diversions or alternative actions, family group conferences, and Youth Court (in severe cases).
For youth older than 17, they are likely going to be given diversion. There is no court proceeding or potential conviction. Instead, they may be asked for a donation or required attendance in a counseling course or program.
What’s in Store for Cannabis and New Zealand
At present, selling, buying, having, smoking, and cultivating cannabis in New Zealand are all illegal. The only permissible activities are the prescription, acquisition, and use of medical marijuana extract, which is expensive and can be hard to get a prescription for.
Many users of marijuana, especially medical cannabis patients, are hoping that legalization efforts speed up soon due to all the benefit that is lost in the interim. However, judging from the current situation and the apparent lack of enthusiasm of many government ministers, this ideal scenario seems far from possible at this point in time.
The Ministry of Health itself has been vocal about its opinion against the decriminalization of weed. However, some hope remains in terms of medical cannabis, and patients and their loved ones continue to lobby for the full legalization of medical marijuana.
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