NZ Election: Special Votes Fail To Swing Referendum, Weed Won’t Be Legalised

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New Zealand has voted not to legalise recreational cannabis, final referendum results show – despite special votes narrowing the margin of defeat.

A referendum on the Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill – which sets out a way for the Government to regulate weed – was held alongside the general election and End of Life Choice referendum last month.

Preliminary results released by the Electoral Commission last week showed 1,114,485 Kiwis (46.1 percent) were in support of bringing the Bill into force, with 1,281,818 (53.1 percent) against.

Special votes – votes from those overseas, those who enrolled to vote on Election Day and those who voted from somewhere outside their electorate – were officially added to the tally on Friday.

While they narrowed the margin of victory for the ‘no’ campaign, the newly counted votes weren’t enough to swing the referendum in favour of legalisation.

The final results showed 1,406,973 (48.4 percent) of Kiwis support bringing the Bill into force, with 1,474,635 (50.7 percent) against. Another 26,463 people (0.9 percent) did not clearly indicate the option for which they wish to vote.

A win for the ‘yes’ campaign would’ve marked an incredible turnaround. They were given only a slim chance of winning the referendum after preliminary results were revealed last Friday.

After the disappointment of losing by a slim margin on preliminary votes, they were given hope by special votes, which tend to swing to the left. It’s understood at least two-thirds of special voters needed to vote in favour of legalisation to overturn last week’s result.

The defeat means the Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill will not be introduced to Parliament, and possession and consumption of cannabis will remain illegal under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975.

Before the referendum, a Newshub-Reid Research poll suggested the ‘no’ campaign would win comfortably.

However after a surprise win in Auckland Central for Chlöe Swarbrick, the Green MP who became the unofficial face of the pro-legalisation campaign, a politics and public policy expert said an upset in the cannabis referendum was a possibility.

“We know left-wing voters are more likely to be pro-cannabis and young people are more likely to be pro-cannabis,” Auckland University lecturer Dr Lara Greaves told Newshub.

“Potentially [Swarbrick’s win] suggests that, but it’s just one of those things where we’ll have to wait and see.”