The legalization of recreational cannabis in New Zealand may not happen after all. Until the country’s general elections held on October 17, the referendum on cannabis legalization and control seemed promising, with industry advocates hoping to see an outcome similar to that of Canada, South Africa, Georgia, and Uruguay.
According to the referendum polls, strong support for adult-use marijuana dwindled over time, making it difficult to predict the outcome.
However, after preliminary referendum results revealed on Friday, it appears that New Zealanders will not be approving the bill. The results showed that 53.1% of votes cast were opposed to legalization, with only 46.1% of the total votes being in favour.
The Electoral Commission will be releasing final results on Friday, November 6, as there are still over 450,000 ballots that need counting. However, the chances that there will be enough votes to turn the tide in favour of legalization are slim.
Industry supporters are already accepting defeat, with New Zealand Minister of Justice Andrew Little issuing a statement regarding the Friday results.
The statement said that after the release of the November 6 results, the incoming administration would respect the outcomes of both referendums. The prohibition on recreational use of marijuana in New Zealand will remain in place.
The Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill were one of the two referendums on the ballot, the other being the End of Life Choice Act.
The campaign for cannabis legalization in New Zealand started in 2017 after Jacinda Ardern, the country’s Prime Minister, took office. Ardern’s Labour Party maintained support for legalization, with the government unveiling its proposal in May, shortly after the launch of New Zealand’s medical cannabis program.
Jacinda Ardern’s Labour Party enjoyed a crushing victory against the conservative National Party in the recent general elections. At the moment, the fate of cannabis legalization in the country remains to be seen.