Chlöe Swarbrick's message to cannabis haters after failed referendum: 'Well done - it still exists'

Green MP Chlöe Swarbrick, a staunch advocate for legalising cannabis, has sarcastically congratulated her opponents on their apparent victory in the referendum.

Preliminary results suggest cannabis, which has been tried by the vast majority of Kiwi adults, will remain illegal - the 'no' camp ahead 53-46, with special votes yet to be counted.

Swarbrick, a rarity in Parliament as a vocal supporter of legalisation, took a shot at what she called the "perversely named" Say Nope to Dope campaign on Newshub Nation, a day after the results came in. 

"I'm sorry guys, cannabis still exists," she said, directly addressing the camera. 

"Well done. It still exists."

She also criticised fellow MPs who refused to reveal publicly how they planned to vote. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Justice Minister Andrew Little, whose name was on the Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill, both voted for it - but wouldn't admit that before the results were released.

In August Little said he was only 50/50 on whether he'd vote for legalisation, and Ardern always said she didn't want to influence voters either way. 

Swarbrick refused to criticise Ardern or Little directly - "I'm not going to give you a headline that doesn't actually help the cause" - deciding to label "the majority of parliamentarians" hypocrites instead. 

"I was really clear the whole way through that one of the many reasons we haven't seen drug law reform in any meaningful scale over the past 40-plus years is because politicians have sat on their hands. 

"The thing that drives me the most mad about that is the blatant hypocrisy. You have a majority of parliamentarians who have... said 'yes I've done cannabis, back in the mists of time'. But now they oversee a law which prosecutes, penalises and criminalises people for doing exactly the same thing they did."

Chloe Swarbrick.
Chloe Swarbrick. Photo credit: Newshub Nation

Though most Kiwis have also used cannabis, she wouldn't call them hypocrites too, holding out hope the special votes would overturn Friday's preliminary results.

"[Politicians] have the power to change that law. That's the massive distinction. When you hold that power, what is the point if you are then prosecuting, penalising and criminalising people for doing exactly the same thing that you have done? So flippantly admitted to having done it on the record."

The failed vote won't stop work on drug reform however, though Swarbrick has doubts about decriminalisation. 

"Decriminalisation is simply about removing criminal penalties from people who use the substance - it doesn't deal with the issue of supply. The issue of supply remains one of the biggest potential harms in terms of the opportunity for people to graduate or escalate to harsher substances, get bound up in the criminal justice system - and the potential perverse incentives you create when you decriminalise something and don't deal with that supply chain."