Questions & Answers about CHOISE

Why has CHOISE been designed this way?

CHOISE has been designed to have the best chance of winning the 2020 cannabis referendum, and then provide the greatest improvement to social and economic wellbeing in New Zealand.

How would retail work? Give an example of social retail.

A social enterprise called Arataki successfully bids for a retail licence. It allows them to run six retail stores in West Auckland, including two on-site Social Clubs. They compete with three other licence holders operating similar numbers of premises. The social outcomes offered as part of Arataki’s licence include having a counsellor and nurse on staff, a trained pharmacist dispensing products, on site café, wellness facilities for clients, community working bees, and limiting very potent products to experienced clients. Opening hours for adult sales are 12 noon to 10pm. They are located away from any schools. Arataki is supplied products by a variety of Licenced Producers, including Piha Grower’s Co-Op. PGC employs locals as growers and processors. Local adults may purchase cannabis from Arataki or the other licenced retail stores, grow their own, or be gifted small amounts from friends.

But what if I don’t like my local outlet, or I live in the country?

The model ensures there would be local choices, with multiple outlets run by competing licence-holders. You won’t be stuck with a monopoly. There will also be at least one mail order / website facility for those who are unable to travel, cannot make regular store hours, live rurally or otherwise cannot access a regular cannabis store.

What about driving and workplace impairment?

Driving under the influence of any drugs will be addressed separately to the referendum. It will remain an offence to drive while impaired. Some funding may be required for increased enforcement and/or training. Workplace impairment will be treated the same as for alcohol and will remain addressed through employment contracts and workplace health and safety policies. Part of the cannabis levy could be used to provide support for safer workplaces.

Why a cannabis levy and how would it work?

Taxes are usually given to the Government’s general account and may not be targeted to specific projects. Cannabis sales should be levied, not taxed, as this allows levies to be (a) adjusted without needing an Act of parliament, and (b) targeted to specific projects or causes. These should include increased funding for regulators, researchers, educators, treatment providers, law enforcement, and a pool for local grants to be administered by the Lotteries Grants Board. The levy should be applied once, at the distributor level. This reduces the burden on small retailers and regulators alike.

Would imports and exports be allowed?

Imports of cannabis products, seeds and utensils would be allowed by LPs but not by consumers (who would have plenty of local options). Commercial exports of adult-use cannabis would be allowed to countries that are also legal.

How does this affect medical access?

The Medicinal Cannabis Scheme would continue to be regulated separately. LPs should be allowed to operate in both medical and adult-use markets. Products supplied under the medical scheme would not attract cannabis levies so may be cheaper (although that is not certain), however patients who are unable to obtain prescriptions for medicinal cannabis products would be able to purchase adult-use products and/or grow their own under this model.

How much are people allowed?

It will be treated like alcohol or tobacco – adults can possess or purchase their preferred quantities, but they cannot on-sell it or provide it to minors (etc).

How will we know it’s working?

A successful outcome should be clearly defined and regularly measured. The legislation and regulations should be reviewed in five years to see if they are achieving the objectives of reducing overall harm and reducing illicit activity. Funding from the levy should be used to research the effects of the model and how to make it work better, with particular emphasis on levels of problematic use including underage use, crime and violence, driving under the influence, ER visits, suicides, rates of use of other drugs including alcohol, and the financial costs or revenues resulting from these.

The NZ government has pointed to Canada. How does it work there?

Each Canadian province has different rules for adult retail sales, within a consistent national framework, which allows NZ to see the parts working well. Retail stores are supplied by licensed producers (LPs) and may be publicly- or privately-owned. BC encourages craft production and retail, whereas Ontario has a monopoly by state-run stores. Sales are taxed at $1/gram. Age limits vary by province but are generally consistent with alcohol.

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