Cannabis and the law

What is cannabis?

Cannabis is one of the most widely available illicit drugs in New Zealand. It comes from the Cannabis sativa plant and contains the active ingredient THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). The more THC in a plant, the stronger its effects when used as a drug.

Cannabis is also known as grass, pot, weed, mull, chronic, dak, hash, smoke, buds, skunk, cabbage.

What does cannabis look like?

Thick, black hash oil in little jar.Large cannabis plant growing outside.

Cannabis comes in three main forms: marijuana, hashish and hash oil. All of these look very different from each other.

  • Marijuana is the most common form. It consists of dried leaves and flowers.
  • Hashish (hash) is small blocks of dried resin, ranging in colour from light brown to nearly black. THC levels in hashish are higher than marijuana. 
  • Hash oil is a thick golden brown to black liquid that is extracted from hashish. Hash oil also has higher levels of THC than marijuana.

What Police are doing about cannabis

Police are committed to reducing the demand for cannabis and disrupting the supply chain. Each year Police target the people who grow and supply cannabis, through aerial searches throughout New Zealand. Crops are seized and destroyed. Police can also seize assets and cash that have been obtained through the supply of cannabis.

Cannabis laws and penalties

Penalties associated with cannabis range from a $500 fine for possession to a 14 year jail term for its supply or manufacture.

Cultivation of cannabis, including to sow or plant it, can, on indictment, result in a 7 year jail term or an immediate 2 years jail term and/or $2,000 fine (depending on the amount).

To find out more about penalties associated with cannabis see Illicit drugs.

Youth and cannabis

If a young person under 17 years of age is reported for smoking or possessing cannabis they could be arrested.

If it is a first offence and the amount of cannabis in their possession does not constitute enough for supply they will be dealt with by the Police Youth Aid section using a number of options. These include:

  • a warning
  • alternative action (diversion)
  • family group conference techniques
  • Youth Court (in serious cases).

If they are 17 or older it is likely that they will get diversion (especially if it is their first offence). This means they will avoid the court process and the likelihood of a conviction, often in return for a donation and/or attending an approved counselling course.

To find out more about young people and the court process visit the Ministry of Justice Youth Court web page.

Getting help

If you or someone you know is having problems with cannabis, other drugs or alcohol, it is important to know there are people who can help. To find out more visit the page Getting help.

To find out more about cannabis, its risks and its effects visit the New Zealand Drug Foundation website.