New Zealanders have voted in favor of legalizing euthanasia in a binding referendum
With about 83% of votes counted, New Zealanders emphatically endorsed the euthanasia measure with 65% voting in favor and 34% voting against.
Proponents of marijuana legalization were frustrated that popular Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern wouldn’t reveal how she intended to vote ahead the Oct. 17 ballot, saying she wanted to leave the decision to New Zealanders. Ardern said Friday after the results were released that she had voted in favor of both referendums.
Conservative lawmaker Nick Smith, from the opposition National Party, welcomed the preliminary marijuana result.
“This is a victory for common sense. Research shows cannabis causes mental health problems, reduced motivation and educational achievement, and increased road and workplace deaths,” he said. “New Zealanders have rightly concluded that legalizing recreational cannabis would normalize it, make it more available, increase its use and cause more harm.”
But liberal lawmaker Chlöe Swarbrick, from the Green Party, said they had long assumed the vote would be close and they needed to wait until the specials were counted.
“We have said from the outset that this would always come down to voter turnout. We’ve had record numbers of special votes, so I remain optimistic,” she said. “New Zealand has had a really mature and ever-evolving conversation about drug laws in this country and we’ve come really far in the last three years.”
The euthanasia measure, which would also allow assisted suicide and takes effect in November 2021, would apply to adults who have terminal illnesses, are likely to die within six months, and are enduring “unbearable” suffering. Other countries that allow some form of euthanasia include The Netherlands, Luxembourg, Canada, Belgium and Colombia.
The marijuana measure would allow people to buy up to 14 grams (0.5 ounce) a day and grow two plants. It was a non-binding vote, so if voters approved it, legislation would have to be passed to implement it. Ardern had promised to respect the outcome and bring forward the legislation, if it was necessary.
Other countries that have legalized or decriminalized recreational marijuana include Canada, South Africa, Uruguay, Georgia plus a number of U.S. states.