By Roland Sebestyén
One week after the preliminary results, the New Zealand Electoral Commission has released the official numbers from the cannabis referendum. While the race did become tighter as all the votes cast were counted, New Zealand has ultimately said ‘no’ to cannabis legalisation.
Since releasing the preliminary results, approximately 500,000 special votes have been counted. These are votes that, due to certain personal circumstances, were not taken at the polls or were not printed on the printed electoral roll.
The Electoral Commission today revealed that even though the official results became very close, the cannabis referendum did fail as 50.7% voted against the Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill.
According to Stuff, Say Nope to Dope spokesperson Aaron Ironside said, while the group backs a reform into medicinal cannabis laws, they were relieved following the official announcement.
He said: “I think the reason that the no vote has won is that enough New Zealanders believe enough reform has occurred with medicinal cannabis being legal.
“Although that law obviously needs to be improved, and a change to the Misuse of Drugs Act. I think this is a vote which says this is enough change for now.
“We think a no vote forces the Government to fix a broken law, rather than to try to overlook the weakness of that law by bringing in legalisation.”
Yet, cannabis advocates won’t give up. They said the fact that it was a close contest gives them a clear mandate to work more in the future.
The next step could be a campaign to decriminalise the drug in New Zealand. However, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she respected the decision on cannabis.
She said: “When it comes to a referendum, a majority is a majority, and so it hasn’t tipped the balance in terms of what we as a Government will do.
“We gave our commitment to New Zealanders if it won the majority, we would progress legislation; if it didn’t, we wouldn’t.
“Ultimately, New Zealanders have made up their own minds, they’ve expressed their own personal opinion, and that, ultimately, is something that I set out right from the very beginning for New Zealand to decide, and they have.”
Ms Ardern, 40, who admitted past cannabis use during the election campaign, said she voted ‘yes’ in the referendum.