For the best part of six months, the long-time executive director of the New Zealand Drug Foundation has been dedicated to one task.
And in nine days’ time, that task will have been completed by Ross Bell. It will also be the final one of his 16-year tenure at the Wellington-based think-tank before taking a senior role at the Ministry of Health.
Whether he will go out as the man who steered New Zealand into a new liberal era remains to be seen.
Regardless, October 17 will spell the end of an often-fractious campaign that saw Bell pitched against the voices of conservatism as New Zealand debated the merits of legalising recreational cannabis.
Bell has sometimes cut a weary figure in debates, slowly shaking his head and smiling ruefully at the arguments against legalisation.
His smile come next Sunday may just be one of jubilation at orchestrating a historic win for the ‘yes’ vote.
Equally, his decade-and-a-half at the NZ Drug Foundation could end in disappointment should the ‘no’ vote get across the line. Given the varied poll results, it’s anyone’s guess which way it will swing.
According to Bell, the referendum result will have global ramifications, irrespective of the result. With Jacinda Ardern rapidly gaining international recognition and respect, a win for reformists during her tenure will alert other countries more than it might ordinarily have done.