Preliminary election results in New Zealand indicate that a cannabis legalization initiative has been rejected by voters, although some votes still remain to be counted. Totals from the election held on October 17 show that 53% of voters chose not to support the initiative, while 46% voted in favor of marijuana legalization. A second referendum to legalize euthanasia in New Zealand appeared to be headed for approval with 65% of the vote in favor, according to results released on Friday by the Electoral Commission in Wellington.
Under the cannabis initiative, possession, use, and home cultivation of recreational cannabis by adults 20 and older would be legalized. The measure would also establish a regulated market for commercial cannabis sales, and shops and cafes for the sale and consumption of cannabis would be licensed by the government.
Supporters of the initiative argued that legalization would eliminate the influence of criminal organizations in the marijuana market in New Zealand, where 80% of the population reports trying cannabis by age 20. Advocates for the measure also noted that the country’s drug laws are unfairly enforced, with indigenous Maori citizens three times more likely to be arrested and convicted on cannabis charges than non-Maori individuals.