By Roland Sebestyén
Due to the coronavirus outbreak in New Zealand, the general election – alongside referendums on cannabis legalisation and euthanasia – was postponed from its original September date to the 17th of October. New polls have shown that the results of the cannabis referendum will be very close, while Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern reveals that she has used cannabis in the past.
A few weeks back, poll results indicated that New Zealand could well become one of the few places where the use of recreational and medicinal cannabis was legal. In the summer, support for legalisation was growing, which forecasted a massive boom in the CBD/Cannabis market.
However, it appears that the tables may now have turned. Polls indicate that more people are against the Bill and still believe that cannabis should remain illegal in the country.
Of those asked, more than half (50.5 percent) said they would vote against the proposal. In comparison, only 37.5 percent claimed they were planning to support cannabis legalisation.
While the poll indicates that there is still more than 10 percent that hasn’t made up their mind yet, the results indicate that support for legalisation has significantly decreased over the last couple of months.
Experts and critics believe that one of the main reasons for this is the prime minister’s neutral stance.
New Zealand will also hold a general election on 17 October; thus, PM Jacinda Ardern has been very cautious about controversial questions, such as cannabis legalisation, that divide the nation. Despite the high profile of the referendum, the PM has decided to keep her feelings on the subject close to her chest, despite having a massive lead in the polls, making no public statement on her opinion.
When she was asked why she hadn’t expressed her opinion on cannabis, she said:
“On the issue of marijuana, that is a conscience vote for the Labour Party. We do not have a position as a whole party. My view therefore would not be the Labour Party view.”
She continued: “Equally, I don’t think it’s my job to go out and advocate any one side because my party does not have a position on it. The view of the public around me is equivalent to mine.”
However, reports that the PM had sampled hemp ice cream while on the campaign trail led to speculation of Ardern’s support for legalisation. According to reports, she said it’d been “creamy.”
During the latest television debate between her and the National party leader, Judith Collins, Ms. Ardern went further.
When they were asked, Ms. Collins said she wouldn’t vote for legalisation and that she had never used the drug.
Although PM Ardern was still reluctant to answer whether she would vote for or against cannabis legislation, she admitted that she had smoked cannabis a “long-time ago.”
Whether this admission will have any impact on the outcome of the referendum, we don’t know. In comparison to the general election – which has been tipped to be a victory for the Labour party – the only thing sure is the referendum will be very close.
In the end, however, the prime minister’s admission may help to give a nudge to voters still on the fence.