New Zealand has voted against legalising recreational cannabis, preliminary referendum results show.
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 earlier this month.
Preliminary results released by the Electoral Commission on Friday afternoon show 1,114,485 Kiwis (46.1 percent) are in support of bringing the Bill into force, with 1,281,818 (53.1 percent) against.
This backs up the findings of a Newshub-Reid Research poll released 24 hours prior to Election Day, which found 55.6 percent would vote 'no', 38.3 percent would vote 'yes' and 5.7 percent 'didn't know'.
However special votes - votes from those who enrolled on election day or cast their ballots from overseas - are yet to be counted.
The official referendum results, which will include these special votes, are scheduled for release on November 6, 2020.
If the result of the referendum stays the same, it'll mean possession and consumption of cannabis will remain illegal in New Zealand under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975.
But if the referendum results turn around when the special votes are counted, the Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill will be introduced to Parliament, allowing an opportunity for the public to share their ideas on how the new legislation might work.
If this happens, the reforms are likely to permit Kiwis to possess and consume cannabis in limited circumstances.
The proposed legislation allows for a person aged 20 or over to:
- Buy up to 14 grams of dried cannabis (or its equivalent) per day from licensed outlets
- Enter licensed premises where cannabis is sold or consumed
- Consume cannabis on private property or at a licensed premise
- Grow up to two plants, with a maximum of four plants per household
- Share up to 14 grams of dried cannabis (or its equivalent) with another person aged 20 or over
Before the referendum, Newshub-Reid Research polls 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 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," said Auckland University Professor Dr Lara Greaves.
"Potentially [Swarbrick's win] suggests that, but it's just one of those things where we'll have to wait and see."