It has only been a few days after New Zealand’s parliament legalized medical cannabis, and a referendum on recreational cannabis legalization has already been confirmed for 2020.
This means that people will get to vote on the legalization of marijuana for recreational use through a ballot measure during the 2020 general election. The referendum was promised last year and it was confirmed by Justice Minister Andrew Little today.
The Green Party sought the ballot measure as part of a confidence and supply agreement with NZ First and with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s Labour Party. The cross-party talks had helped form a three-way coalition government.
According to Little, they know when it will be and they have a commitment that it will be binding. It is just a matter of filling in the details, he said.
Two-thirds support legalization
The Green Party has welcomed the referendum decision.
The Green Party’s spokesperson, Chloe Swarbrick, said that they have had opinion polls for decades now, and these polls confirm that Kiwis are positively ahead of political action when it comes to cannabis law reform.
An opinion poll in 2017 suggested that two-thirds of New Zealanders are in favor of cannabis legalization.
Swarbrick said that the binding referendum presents an opportunity for the voters’ decision to pave the way for meaningful legislative changes.
Meanwhile, NZ First’s head, Simon Bridges, called the vote a cynical move to distract the people from other issues surrounding the general election.
Moreover, Bridges contended that full legalization of cannabis would normalize illicit drug use.
The NZ Drug Foundation also noted that cannabis is the most commonly used illegal drug in the country. According to the charity group, 80 percent of New Zealanders have tried pot at least once by the age of 21. This while 10 percent had developed a pattern of heavy weed use.
First in Asia Pacific
If voters support legalization, New Zealand will be the first country in the Asia Pacific region to allow the use of cannabis for recreational purposes.
So far, only two countries have fully legalized marijuana: Uruguay and Canada.