New Zealand’s Cannabis Reform Vote On Knife Edge

The issue of recreational cannabis reform is front and centre as a voter referendum in the national elections in Kiwi-land and the outcome is still a toss-up as the country heads to the polls in just over a month

Late breaking poll data suggests that voters are leaning towards making New Zealand the third country in the world to legalize its recreational cannabis industry. What are the stakes either way as the country heads to the polls in two weeks?

While the standing Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern won’t make her views known about her choices when it comes to recreational cannabis (except that she did inhale once), the reality is that New Zealand is standing at a bit of a global canna precipice when it goes to the polls in the middle of October. They certainly are not the only country facing such odd political realities, but the Kiwis are, in this odd environment, certainly taking on cannabis reform, in this incarnation, like nobody else right now. Namely that this is a voter referendum that the government has been forced to submit to, and in an environment where subsequent implementation of the same, should it pass, will also meet with the inevitable official inertia of other jurisdictions when faced with undeniable voter will.

Photo Credit: Gras Grun, Unsplash

See California if not Germany as perfect examples of the same, just on the cannabis front.

The latest polling data, which has been a toss-up since the referendum was announced, seem to be finally breaking in favour of reform (conducted by the Helen Clark Foundation and the New Zealand Drug Foundation as of October 6) suggests that voters are now leaning towards a yes vote to pass the referendum. Indeed, according to the latest poll, 49% of respondees were in favour of the legislation, while 44% are against.

What If New Zealand Passes The Recreational Cannabis Referendum?

Photo Credit: Wolf Zimmermann, Unsplash

Undoubtedly, the news of the referendum passing in New Zealand will be positive news for the development of the industry, globally, no matter what it then creates (and there are many who believe that rushing into a profit-based market on any front, either medical or recreational too fast actually is bad for patients).

The country will only be the third, after Canada and Uruguay, to legally change the status of cannabis — and further do so right on the eve of the widely expected UN vote to change the global regulatory status of the plant.

That in and itself will also cause shockwaves that will be felt globally, including of course, in both Europe’s medical import market, as well as further abroad.

It will also begin to add new evidence to what is still an unfortunately data-free environment — namely what happens to the human body when it consumes phyto or externally produced cannabinoids — either for pleasure or for medical reasons.

And of course put authorities in New Zealand in the unenviable position of actually implementing the same.

What Happens If New Zealand’s Recreational Vote Does Not Succeed?

Photo Credit: Add Weed, Unsplash

Actually, at this point, passing a recreational referendum in New Zealand is not actually as big as it would have been several years ago. The country is beginning to establish its medical program and that is a start.

The voting in New Zealand will not influence any country in Europe now on the cusp of these discussions (see Luxembourg and Holland if not Denmark). Germany is now three years into its medical program, with domestic pressure to push the doors open further and wider.

Domestically, there are those who are saying that if the vote fails, it will be many years before the issue is raised again at this level. But don’t count on any of these predictions being true. Covid has changed the equation just about everywhere and the ongoing drumbeat for reform, domestically, national and regionally is not going to disappear.

Why Is The Timing Alone Important?

No matter what happens, the issue of recreational reform will make global news right at a time when international decision-makers are finally re-examining the entire enchilada.

The success (or not) of the discussion politically, in other words, in a remote island on the “other side of the world” will add generally to the ongoing debate about the world’s most interesting plant — and no matter what, that will be a general win. Even if New Zealand will then become the next jurisdiction to wrestle with all that comes with a new reality.

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Marguerite Arnold

Marguerite Arnold

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Marguerite has covered the legal cannabis industry internationally from Germany for over six years and is the author of several books plus a Cannatech geek