The Government's proposed referendum on cannabis law reform has stirred up some concerns in Hawke's Bay. Laura Wiltshire reports.

Napier's acting mayor has bristled at the idea of the city becoming a cannabis tourism magnet if a reform on drug laws passes.

Justice Minister Andrew Little released information on Tuesday saying the referendum question will be a simple yes/no question on whether to legalise cannabis, with legislation being drafted before the vote.

The referendum will be held with the general election next year.

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Hawke's Bay has weighed in on the cannabis referendum due to take place in 2020. Photo / File
Hawke's Bay has weighed in on the cannabis referendum due to take place in 2020. Photo / File

Legislation will include a minimum age of purchase being 20 years old, regulations and commercial supply controls, limits on home-growing options, a public education programme and stakeholder engagement.

Napier's acting mayor, Faye White, said she does not support legalising the drug and doesn't want to use legal cannabis to draw tourists to the region.

"We need to protect our young people and keep them as safe as possible.

"We worked hard as a city to shut down the sale of synthetic drugs in Napier, so we don't want to undo this good work."

Tukituki MP Lawrence Yule said he was concerned people would be voting on an issue they did not fully understand, saying it could be New Zealand's Brexit.

"The Parliament hasn't got a chance to uniquely define what's going to be in the referendum.

"I think that runs the real risk of a Brexit-type scenario where people vote for something that they don't know what it means."

He said he was worried about the health effects of decriminalisation on people under the age of 25.

Hastings mayor Sandra Hazlehurst also raised concerns about legalisation.

"We need to know a lot more about cannabis use and its long-term effects."

"Personally, I am really concerned about the drug and alcohol statistics for our region.

"The 2018 Health Equity Report by the Hawke's Bay District Health Board shows cannabis use here is significantly higher than the rest of the country."

Tukituki MP Lawrence Yule says he is concerned the public will not have enough information to make an informed decision. Photo / File
Tukituki MP Lawrence Yule says he is concerned the public will not have enough information to make an informed decision. Photo / File

Hawke's Bay Norml spokeswoman Shona Brewer said the organisation, which campaigns for cannabis law reform, supported what the Government was doing.

"It seems to be covering recreational as well as medical.

"There is a huge amount of evidence that the use of hemp products and cannabis will reduce pain, will reduce anxiety, will reduce the effects of depression."

Shona Brewer, a Hawke's Bay advocate for the legalisation of cannabis, backs the referendum. Photo / Supplied
Shona Brewer, a Hawke's Bay advocate for the legalisation of cannabis, backs the referendum. Photo / Supplied

She said she supported the legal age being 20.

Two Hawke's Bay Health food shops also weighed in on the issue.

The owner of Cornucopia Organics, Kaye Keats, said her store already sold hemp products such as oils and flakes, but selling legal cannabis would be a separate decision, one made at a later date after seeking advice.

Chantal Shop co-owner and manager Tim Stevens said if it did sell cannabis it would be based on its health benefits, rather than purely for recreation reasons.

He said there has been research around CBD oils which are starting to show health benefits, which is something he would consider selling if legalised.

"I would definitely look at a licence for products like that, but I wouldn't be interested in a pipe-shop type operation."