Cannabis predictions and crystal ball gazing


Last year was an absolute humdinger for cannabis, with legislative changes for hemp foods and medicinal cannabis, confirmation the cannabis referendum will be binding and held at the next election, and so much activity it was hard to keep up. It seems the stars are aligned and, although we must not become complacent, this is finally the moment when cannabis law reform can actually happen in New Zealand. Here are my predictions for what will play out this year.


Imported hemp food products will appear on grocery shelves. Domestic producers will face issues with seed supply, and processing capability. More than one large well known company will develop a hemp alternative to dairy. But unlike hemp farmers around the world, Kiwi hemp farmers will not be able to extract the non-psychoactive cannabinoid CBD, a lucrative hemp by-product.


The scheme will be rolled out with regulations in place by December. Patients won’t see much change this year other than for CBD products. The first clinical trials will start, and the first patients will be able to access local products. Companies will come and go – we’ve already seen the first collapse with MediCann and we can expect more, including mergers, consolidations, and interest from overseas.

There is plenty of room: Colorado, with a population of little more than NZ has over 800 canna-businesses, from mom-and-pop operations and hipster craft producers, to large multi-state corporates, whereas other states have restricted licences to a handful. Our final regulations will determine who can be involved, with licence fees and structures used to facilitate either many smaller operators or restrict it to well-funded
investment vehicles.

Adult use

The referendum on making cannabis legal will be held at the 2020 election. It’s a very tight timeframe: legislation really needs to be introduced by the middle of this year, so the question and format will essentially be decided in the next few months. We will vote on a definite model and the starting point will be Canada, adjusted for Aotearoa. Public input will be via the select committee process. There will be push back from the usual discredited and tired moral zealots, and the media will spread their nonsense while secretly hoping for an opposition that is rational and not so deranged.

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One thing we can be certain of: the referendum will pass comfortably. That’s because the government is organising and running it, and will not propose a question that would fail. Politically it needs at least 65% support, and ideally even more. On current polling that would stack the odds against a fully commercial market and perhaps more in favour of non-profit Cannabis Social Clubs, run along the lines of liquor licensing trusts with profits returned to the community, and who re-sell cannabis products grown and made by licensed producers.

Internationally we can expect reform in more territories including the Asia-Pacific region, and I think we could even see legalisation in the USA, the home of drug prohibition, where Donald Trump will not oppose House bill HR420, which would allow federal regulation and interstate commerce. Cannabis reforms around the world – and open non-compliance with international drug treaties – will force the UN to review and revise its approach to drug control.

Over the next few months, actions taken and decisions made will have a huge impact. It’s a great time to be involved!

Chris Fowlie is the CEO of Zeacann Limited, a medicinal cannabis producer; co-founder of the New Zealand Medical Cannabis Council; president of the National Organisation for the Reform of Marijuana Laws NZ Inc; co-founder of The Hempstore Aotearoa; co-host of Marijuana Media on 95bFM; and court-recognised expert witness for cannabis.


  1. No Not the Canadian model Chris. It is a disaster. We need the Portugal model for the humanizing of our Police Force and the Uruguay model for Government only dispensaries guaranteed pricing for product and zero privatization. The Canadian model is already running into problems of it’s own making. The legislation is clumsy and has many of the same flaws as California. too many taxes too many rules and going large(1500 pounds minimum) the only profitable option.Growers Co-ops ( back to the future) are the only model for the little guy.Do not promote the Canadian model Chris you need to do your homework . So far the only legal part of the crop worth growing will be for seed. There’s a lot of self styled experts in this country. Chloe is one. None of you have ever grown a commercial crop of cannabis. If you have you are all stuck in the 1970’s.I don’t see any growers in the mix, you know proplr who garden,people who actually know this crop.

    • Toatally agree Shona. Portugal and Uruguay have shown the way in this area and for a long time.They took the time to get it right and we should make sure that we do too.

  2. Free for all is the only viable model, the market will find its own balance, the knowledgeable and proficient growers all ready exist in this country and have been persecuted long enough.
    That or youll never get rid of the black-market crime aspect of cannabis, remember they dont need your permission to do anything, they are already supplying a nation with what that nation demands no matter what anyone else thinks.
    Grow a pair NZ DEMAND free access NOW!!

    • Yeah @Rickoshay won’t happen. It will be over taxed too many forms and the persecution will continue.Black market won’t die same as California because neo liberals and bureaucrats aren’t that smart and too few ( a very small number) have ever worked for themselves. And none of the rule makers know how to grow. End of story.

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