Cannabis referendum was 'for New Zealanders to decide, and they have,' Jacinda Ardern says

Source: 1News

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has defended her decision not to reveal her personal opinion on cannabis use, saying it was "for New Zealand to decide," in the referendum.

New Zealanders voted against legalising cannabis by a narrow margin in the referendum after preliminary results saw 53.1 per cent against and 46.1 per cent in support.

After counting of special votes, it was today revealed that 50.7 per cent in New Zealanders voted against of legalising cannabis, while 48.4 per cent were in favour.

More than 67 per cent support was needed in the special votes to change the preliminary result.

“When it comes to a referendum, a majority is a majority and so it hasn’t tipped the balance in terms of what we as a Government will do,” she said today. “We gave our commitment to New Zealanders if it won the majority, we would progress legislation; if it didn’t, we wouldn’t.”

Ardern also defended her decision not to reveal how she intended to vote, before the referendum.

"Do I regret allowing people to make their own decision on this incredibly important issue? No," she said.

"In my view, people did need to make their own personal choice on this in the same way that I did.

"Ultimately, New Zealanders have made up their own minds, they've expressed their own personal opinion, and that, ultimately, is something that I set out right from the very beginning - that was my intent - for New Zealand to decide and they have."

She said one of the issues which "really came through" during the debate was "an anxiousness around a purely justice-based approach" around cannabis possession and use.

"Even keeping, as we will do now in New Zealand, the possession of cannabis as an offence, even then, the suggestion has been for many that actually, should we take a more health-based approach there?

Ardern said while changes have been made to the Misuse of Drugs Act, giving police the directive to refer drug users to health services over a more punitive approach unless it is within the public's interest to do so, "that's only just happened".

"I think our job now is to drill into how that is working in practice, that it's meeting Parliament's expectation and public expectation."