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Bring Your Weed through New Zealand Customs...As Long as It's Prescribed

MERRY JANE examines the Kiwi cannabis loophole.

by Tim Baker

by Tim Baker

Heading down under this summer? Well, you want to make sure you get your bud in order before you travel with your stash.

Let’s just be clear about one thing right away: New Zealand doesn’t want you to bring your cannabis with you when you travel there.

That being said, if you’re willing to lawyer up and wait a while, you might not get in trouble for bringing it either.

A New Zealand attorney successfully exploited this decades-old loophole earlier this year, and was able to get the Commonwealth to make a tiny concession to Kiwi cannabis users.

According to the loophole, if a medicinal substance is illegal in New Zealand but legal in the jurisdiction from which someone is arriving from, the person is allowed to bring one month supply of the substance legally.

Though the law doesn't mention cannabis and was never intended to be used to get the plant into New Zealand, changing laws around the world mean that people from Colorado to California to Uruguay now have the same loophole open to them. And most medical patients can go through quite a bit of cannabis in a month, meaning that the legal grey area could very well create interesting quandaries for Kiwi law enforcement in the coming years.

As the issue played out in the Kiwi media, the website Stuff.co.nz covered a brewing conflict between New Zealand customs and legal activists.

The Customs Department’s policy remains draconian: Health Minister Peter Dunne told Stuff.co.nz that cannabis products would be seized at the border, “Even if it is disclosed on the arrivals form, is lawfully obtained overseas, was supported by a medical prescription and is for a month's supply or less.”

But according to lawyers like Sue Grey, who first exploited the loophole for cannabis purposes, this position is not only reactionary, it’s unlawful.

“In breach of representations on their website and it breaches fundamental human rights, and I invite New Zealand Customs to urgently review their position,” Grey said in response to Dunne’s statement.

Essentially, New Zealand’s laws allow those of us with medical cannabis needs to take our medicine in their country, so any foreigner who has a valid prescription is technically on the right side of the legal system and a lawyer like Grey will gladly make sure you don’t waste anything other than time and money.

But the gatekeepers to any country are its customs officers, and New Zealand’s, at the moment, seem to be determined to continue their war on cannabis.


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Tim Baker

Tim Baker is a New York-based writer and sometimes editor whose work has appeared in Newsweek, TV Guide, CBS and Discovery Special Editions, and can regularly be found at thrillist.com. He has an MFA in creative writing from The New School and also attended Hunter College of the City University of New York.



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