Wellington, 30 October 2020 (dpa/MIA) – New Zealanders have voted in favour of legalizing euthanasia but not cannabis, according to provisional results announced by the country’s electoral commission Friday.
Voters had the chance to significantly change the country’s laws during the general election on October 17, when they were asked two yes or no questions – one on euthanasia and the other on cannabis law reform.
Provisional results show the country has voted for legalizing euthanasia, with 65.2 per cent of voters in favour.
The euthanasia referendum result is binding so it will become law in 12 months’ time, thereby allowing a terminally ill person to request assisted dying.
Two doctors must agree the patient is well-informed and other legal criteria are met and only a person with a terminal illness and less than six months to live will be eligible.
The leader of the ACT party David Seymour, who introduced the bill to Parliament, gave a brief speech thanking those who supported it.
He said it would make New Zealand a “a kinder, more compassionate, more humane” society. “What a great day to be a Kiwi,” he added.
The referendum on cannabis legalization was a closer result, and could potentially change.
The cannabis legislation proposed a minimum age of 20 to use and purchase recreational cannabis, limited home-growing options and a public education programme as well as introducing regulations and commercial supply limits.
Results show the vote was split, with 53.1 per cent against legalization, while 46.1 per cent voted for.
There are 167,333 votes separating those for and against, with an estimated 480,000 special votes – which includes early, overseas or phone votes – yet to be tallied.
Those campaigning for legalizing cannabis are holding out hope the special votes will flip the results, but justice minister Andrew Little said the result is unlikely to turn.
“The probability of that is so low to be virtually non-existent,” he said.
Little confirmed in a statement that if the provisional results were confirmed as they currently stand, the incoming government would respect the result.
“This will mean that recreational cannabis use will remain illegal in New Zealand.”
The cannabis referendum is non-binding, but a spokesperson for Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern confirmed she would progress any legislation in line with the final vote.
Ardern had kept her votes secret, but the spokesperson confirmed she had voted in favour of both referendums.
The vote was always going to be close, Green Party spokesperson on drug law reform Chloe Swarbrick said in a statement.
“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 had had a “really mature and ever evolving conversation” about drug laws.
“Many who have traditionally felt disenfranchised by the political system may have their voices heard at the specials. We’ll wait to see how that plays out next week.”
Official results for both referendums and the general election will be confirmed on November 6.