New Zealand: Voters Narrowly Reject Marijuana Legalization Referendum

Wellington, New Zealand: Voters narrowly rejected a nationwide referendum that sought legalize the possession and use of cannabis by those age 20 or older.

Just under 49 percent of voters supported the measure, while 51 percent of voters decided ‘no’ on the binding referendum. Although New Zealanders voted on the measure in mid-October during their general election, the final vote tally was only officially announced late last week.

Newly re-elected Prime Minister Jacinda Ardem recently acknowledged that she had voted in favor of the measure. She had refused to provide her personal opinion on the referendum prior to the election. The PM says that she will not pursue similar legislation legislatively, stating, “New Zelanders have made up their own minds” against legalization.

The referendum, which was endorsed by NORML New Zealand, would have mandated lawmakers to establish rules and regulations permitting the commercial production and retail sale of cannabis and cannabis-infused products.

Chris Fowlie, a spokesperson for New Zealand NORML, expressed hope that lawmakers will nonetheless advance some type of marijuana law reforms. “[W]ith such a close vote, we will need compromise and consensus,” he said. “[T]here must still be reforms, just not this Bill in that form.”

Under New Zealand law, the adult use of marijuana is criminalized, punishable by up to three months in jail.

For additional information, visit NORML New Zealand.