Will New Zealand Legalize Cannabis?
WELLINGTON, New Zealand – New Zealand has just voted in a new prime minister according to the New York Times. Jacinda Ardern of the Labour party was confirmed last Thursday as New Zealand’s next prime minister. Her confirmation will end nine years of conservative leadership, and Ardern has been supportive of decriminalizing marijuana during her campaign.
On Friday, Ardern said that she thought imprisonment for people using marijuana was unjust while also voicing concerns about the potential of the country’s youth becoming at risk. "I've always been very open about the fact that I do not believe that people should be imprisoned for personal use of cannabis. On the flip side, I also have concerns around young people accessing a product which can clearly do harm and damage to them."
The new Prime Minister said that before she makes a decision about legalizing recreational marijuana, she wants to hold a referendum to find out how the people of New Zealand feel about legalization. She added that she said yes to the referendum because what the country was doing currently “simply isn’t working.”
Executive Director of the charity New Zealand Drug Foundation Ross Bell told Reuters that “Anything that helps shift New Zealand drug laws out of the dinosaur age is going to be a good thing. Arguably it is better for the sustainability of the reform to have a broad church like we’ve got with this government, so that it is not just seen as some sort of fringe liberal policy.”
The coalition of the new incoming government for the country’s drug policy includes the center-left Labour Party, the liberal Green Party and the conservative New Zealand First party. All parties agreed today to hold the marijuana referendum. If New Zealand does vote to legalize recreational marijuana, it will be the first to do so in the Asian-Pacific.
Niko Mann is a freelance writer living in Los Angeles.