NEW Zealand has voted against the legalisation of cannabis in what will be remembered as one of the tightest referendums in the country’s history.
According to figures released by the New Zealand Electoral Commission today, 50.7% of voters said ‘no’ to marijuana, while 49.4% of Kiwis had backed the call for legalisation.
It had already looked like being a close vote when preliminary poll estimates last week suggested the ‘no’ campaign was hovering slightly above 53%. However, even the most experienced of observers had not anticipated the final result to be so close.
The referendum was made in tandem with a vote to introduce euthanasia, which was backed by more than 65% of the population.
New Zealand prime minister – Jacinda Ardern – declared she had voted in favour of both proposals, but said she would follow the will of the majority and, therefore, would be unable to put the cannabis proposal back on the table during her term of office.
The popular PM was voted back into office last month, meaning it will be at least four years before New Zealand’s authorities consider legalising cannabis again.
Missing out by less than two per cent of the vote, however, will certainly encourage marijuana advocates to steel themselves for another campaign in 2024.
Some, though, have today criticised the 40-year-old politician for waiting until after the voting slips were counted before declaring her position on the vote, as well as admitting that she had smoked cannabis, albeit “a long time ago”.
“I can appreciate why she perhaps didn’t wish to reveal how she had voted, because she’s the prime minister,” said long-time weed campaigner Stuart Whitehead.
“But, at the same time, it is kind of disappointing to know that she had been a supporter of the campaign to legalise cannabis but not said anything publicly.
“She’s so respected as the leader of the nation that her view could easily have secured enough votes for Kiwis to have voted for the legalisation of cannabis.”