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New Zealanders vote ‘yes’ to euthanasia, ‘no’ to legalising cannabis

There are still about 480,000 special votes, such as overseas ballots, to be counted but these would have to favour legalising marijuana overwhelmingly in order to change the results.

Voted yes twice: NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

Voted yes twice: NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.Credit:Getty Images

The margin of victory for the "yes” vote for euthanasia is already too large to overturn even after all special votes are counted and the final results are released in a week.

Polling on the outcome of the referendums had predicted this outcome.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s spokesman told Stuff on Friday that she had voted yes in both. Ardern’s support for assisted dying was known but during the election campaign she repeatedly refused to say whether she would back legalising marijuana for recreational use.

Marijuana is already legal for medicinal purposes in New Zealand and that will not change as a result of the vote.

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Aaron Ironside, the spokesman for the victorious Say Nope to Dope campaign, said New Zealanders had voted no because the country already had a relatively high level of marijuana usage and people were "reluctant to do anything to increase that”.

"Younger voters were more concerned about being able to use cannabis in peace. But older voters, even those who had tried it, realised and knew about the damage that it can cause so they swung towards no,” he said.

"It was a hard sell to say there will be 400 cannabis shops and people [would be] growing it in their backyards but usage would decrease. People didn’t want it to be a visible part of our world,” he said referring to figures suggested in a report to government.

New Zealand has a recent history of enacting social reforms, including the introduction of an emissions trading scheme back in 2008 and the legalisation of same-sex marriage in 2013.

But Ironside said that legalising cannabis was different as it would affect all citizens, regardless of whether they chose to use marijuana.

"Many other types of reform don’t affect anyone else, such as same-sex marriage. This reform affected everybody, it meant teenagers using cannabis; the use of cannabis when people drive or are at work. This would impinge on everyone’s lives, it wasn’t just about what happens in the privacy of your own home,” he said.

The New Zealand Drug Foundation, which campaigned for a yes vote, said that even those people who had campaigned for a no vote publicly had accepted cannabis use should be treated as a health and social issue, and decriminalised.

"Although a majority of New Zealanders did not vote for the proposed model of legalisation, the debate has shown a clear public desire for legal change in some form,” said Tuari Potikim the chair of the Foundation.

"It’s time for an overhaul of the Misuse of Drugs Act, which is no longer fit for purpose. The problems caused by prohibition will not disappear by themselves.”

The proposed laws would have allowed anyone over the age of 20 to buy up to 14 grams of cannabis per day at a price of $NZ20 ($18.80) per gram.

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