New Zealand voters have rejected a referendum to legalize marijuana, final results released by the government on Friday show.
While polls closed on October 17, New Zealand does not complete its count for ballot questions on Election Day. Preliminary results published last month showed the measure trailing by a notable margin, but so-called “special votes” still had to be counted before the outcome was finalized.
Those roughly 480,000 remaining votes did not move the needle far enough in favor of reform, however, the final data released by the government on Friday afternoon local time showed.
The referendum ended up falling short by a 48.4 percent in favor to 50.7 percent against margin.
The preliminary result on October 30 had the measure trailing 46.1 percent to 53.1 percent.
Special votes came from citizens who were abroad, people who recently registered, those serving prison sentences of fewer than three years and students attending schools in districts outside of where they’re registered to vote.
Polls heading into the election showed mixed results.
A poll released by the Helen Clark Foundation and the New Zealand Drug Foundation in September found 49 percent support for the referendum and 45 percent opposition. A separate survey from August showed just 39 percent of respondents favor the measure while 46 percent are against it.
Advocates are understandably disappointed by the outcome, but the vote even being held in the first place was a historic development, as it marked the first time voters anywhere in the world had the opportunity to decide on a nationwide legalization policy.
Canada and Uruguay have legalized nationally, but those policies were enacted legislatively. A handful of other nations have policies that allow possession and home cultivation.
The government’s proposal to allow adults 20 and older purchase and possess marijuana—and cultivate up to two plants—was first unveiled in April. It also would have allowed for cannabis consumption lounges where people could use marijuana on-site.
The three political parties that were part of New Zealand’s last minority government coalition reached an agreement about the basic details of the legalization referendum and released that information in May 2019. The referendum on the issue was the product of a deal that the Green Party struck after agreeing to help install Labour Party head Jacinda Ardern as the prime minister following the 2017 election.
Meanwhile, every U.S. state that had a marijuana or drug policy reform measure on the ballot in this week’s elections approved the reforms.
Photo courtesy of Tākuta.
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