'That plant will find a way to get legalised' - Patrick Gower on weed referendum

Newshub journalist Patrick Gower, who investigated the world of recreational marijuana in his documentary series On Weed, says it's only a matter of time before it's legalised in New Zealand.

And kicking the can down the road means none of the problems it's causing will be fixed anytime soon.

Kiwis narrowly voted 53 percent to 46 to keep recreational use of the popular drug illegal, according to preliminary results released on Friday. 

"It's incredibly close, isn't it?" Gower told Newshub Nation on Saturday, speaking live from the US where he's covering the equally contentious US election. 

"That's just going to make the problems that we've got in New Zealand carry on in some ways."

Advocates for legalisation say the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill would have taken much of the trade in the drug away from criminals, making it safer to access and use, and raise hundreds of millions in revenue. People would also no longer end up in the justice system for using a substance experts say is far less damaging than alcohol.

"Now we've pretty much got one in every two people saying it should be legalised," said Gower.

"The simple fact is this - New Zealand is riddled with weed. It's everywhere. So many people use it. It's causing so many problems. This result is not going to change anything. People are still going to use it, young people are still going to use it, Māori are still going to get locked up or arrested for it. Nothing's going to change."

Advocates like the Greens' Chlöe Swarbrick have vowed to keep fighting, even as the Labour Party - which has a majority in Parliament - says it will honour the results of the referendum, even though leader Jacinda Ardern voted to legalise. 

There's no doubt in Gower's mind it will be legalised. 

"It will eventually get legalised. It's just going to take more time. That plant will find a way to get legalised in New Zealand - it just might take a few more years. It'll get there." 

He's likely right - polls ahead of the referendum showed if only those under 55 voted, it would have passed in a landslide. Māori - who suffer higher drug-related arrest rates than other ethnicities, out of proportion to their offending - also supported the change 64-36, according to polling.