A non-binding referendum held on 17 October 2020 in conjunction with the 2020 general election and a euthanasia referendum involved a vote for or against the proposed “Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill“, which would have legalised the sale, use, possession and production of adult use cannabis.
By the weekend, it was looking like 53.1 per cent of New Zealanders voted against the Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill. Last Friday, Minister of Justice Andrew Little acknowledged the provisional results of the referendum.
“The Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill will not be introduced as legislation by the Labour Government this term,” he said. “This will mean that recreational cannabis use will remain illegal in New Zealand.”
Final referendum results are due to be released on Friday 6 November with the official election results. The result of the referendum either way has no impact on the legal status of medicinal cannabis and hemp production in New Zealand, both of which are already legal; albeit access is still a challenge.
While recreational marijuana hasn’t made it over the line, medicinal cannabis has enjoyed ongoing strong support in New Zealand. As the country prepared to make new medical cannabis legislation law back in 2018, a survey found 73% agreed medicinal cannabis should be treated the same as any other medicine.
An interesting knock-on effect of the defeat of adult use cannabis in the referendum is that it appeared to impact shares of NZX-listed medical cannabis firms – even though the companies made it clear they had no intentions of moving into the recreational sector. This may have been a result of confusion among investors who haven’t been able to distinguish between medical and recreational cannabis, or a punt that a successful vote would see these companies reconsider.
While on the topic of medical cannabis in New Zealand, last month it was revealed the volume of medicinal cannabis prescribed by doctors in the country was up 84% in the first six months of 2020.
With the result of the referendum set to be a no, recriminations have begun, including an accusation the New Zealand Medical Association influenced votes and acted negligently in the lead-up to the referendum.