New Zealand has voted against legalising cannabis by a margin of 53.1% to 46.1% according to preliminary results announced today.
While the referendum is non-binding, Jacinda Ardern’s newly re-elected Labour Government was expected to pass the Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill if the yes vote had won.
The no vote totalled 1,281,818 against 1,114,485 for yes. Informal votes (where the voter has not clearly indicated a preference) totalled 19,244, giving an overall turnout of 2,415,547.
The prime minister refused to state which way she would vote in the build-up to the referendum so she could implement the result from a neutral position.
The bill would have allowed people to possess and consume cannabis in limited circumstances.
People aged 20 or over would have been able to buy up to 14 grams of dried cannabis (or its equivalent) per day from licensed outlets; enter licensed premises where cannabis is sold or consumed; consume cannabis on private property or at licensed premises; grow up to two plants, with a maximum of four plants per household; and share up to 14 grams of dried cannabis (or its equivalent) with another person aged 20 or over.
Opinion polls fluctuated throughout the campaign, with the vote delayed by four weeks to October 17 due to a renewed Covid-19 outbreak in Auckland. It coincided with the country’s general election and a referendum on the legalisation of euthanasia, which recorded a yes vote (65.2% to 33.8%).
The preliminary result does not include special votes (those cast by people who are outside of their electorate on polling day). The final result will be announced on Friday November 6.