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Source: University of Canterbury

07 September 2020

In a live, online, UC Connect panel discussion on Wednesday 9 September, University of Canterbury experts from a range of disciplines will discuss the Cannabis legislation and control referendum, due to take place in the 2020 general election.

In this year’s Aotearoa New Zealand General Election, the people will also vote in a referendum on whether the recreational use of cannabis should become legal.

The referendum question is based on the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill, which has been developed to help give voters an idea of how the law might work. The Bill sets out the regulation regime that would legalise the production, possession and uses of cannabis for those aged 20 years and older. The proposed law will ban items designed to appeal to young people, set a four-year prison term for selling to under-20-year-olds and allow cannabis ‘cafes’ to open.

In an upcoming UC Connect panel discussion on the evening of Wednesday 9 September, experts from a range of disciplines will discuss the Cannabis legislation and control referendum, one of two due to take place in the 2020 election.

The UC Connect panel on the Cannabis law referendum will include:

·        Professor Neil Boister to discuss the legal obligations connected to legalising cannabis.

·        Dr Sarah Whitcombe-Dobbs on the health impacts connected to legalising cannabis.

·        Dr Rachael Dixon on education issues connected to legalising cannabis.

·        Dr Jarrod Gilbert on the impact on those previously criminalised for a cannabis if it’s decriminalised.

The host/moderator will be Professor Alex Tan, Head of UC Political Science and International Relations.

Director of Criminal Justice, and Sociologist Senior Lecturer Dr Jarrod Gilbert will look at the impact of criminal penalties on cannabis users, and what groups were most effected. He will consider the question as to whether or not past convictions should be expunged from people’s records.


Head of UC’s Law School, Professor Neil Boister will discuss legal difficulties at a domestic level and at an international level about the proposed legislation. The domestic model for New Zealand will be compared to models already in use in other states including Canada, the United States and Uruguay, and whether it addresses the problems they have encountered. How the proposed legislation fits with New Zealand’s international legal commitments to control cannabis will also be discussed.

Dr Rachael Dixon, School of Health Science, UC Education, Health & Human Development

Rachael will talk about the approach to cannabis education in secondary schools. Cannabis is explored as part of Alcohol and Drug Education in Health & PE in the New Zealand Curriculum, which is framed by a wellbeing, socio-ecological and a harm-minimisation approach. Rachael will unpack what this means in terms of what is covered in cannabis education as well as how it is approached by teachers and schools to bring about learning.

Sarah will be speaking about the proposed legislation’s potential impact on mental health and addictions, with an emphasis on disadvantaged or vulnerable populations.  Sarah supports evidence-based drug reform approaches that view substance use as a health issue not a criminal justice issue. Key questions include:

1.      What are the potential risks or benefits for youth mental health under the proposed legislation? 

2.      Are there any current biases or inequities that will be addressed or reduced under the proposed legislation?

3.      What are the risks of legalisation without a whole-of-government approach? 

UC Connect discusses: the Cannabis law referendum, presented by Professor Neil Boister, Dr Sarah Whitcombe-Dobbs, Dr Rachael Dixon and Dr Jarrod Gilbert, hosted/moderated by Professor Alex Tan, 7pm – 8.30pm, Wednesday 9 September, streaming free online via UC’s FaceBook page.