NZ votes yes on euthanasia, weed unlikely

Ben McKay
·2-min read

New Zealanders have voted to support euthanasia in droves but not to legalise cannabis, according to early results from two referendums.

The preliminary results from the public polls held alongside the election on October 17 were released by the Electoral Commission on Friday afternoon.

Kiwis supported the End of Life Choice ballot, voting 65 per cent in favour and 34 per cent against.

This means assisted dying will become law in November next year.

However the "reeferendum" is set to fail, with 46 per cent in favour and 53 per cent against.

The results are in line with expectations and polling, though they are not final with almost half a million votes still to be counted.

Those "special votes", which are largely from out-of-electorate and overseas voters, will be added to the mix ahead of the final declaration on November 5.

Historically, those voters have supported left-leaning parties Labour and the Greens, which suggests the final margin will winnow.

Within minutes of the results, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern broke her silence on her choice in the contentious poll, revealing she voted 'Yes' on legalising cannabis.

Ms Ardern opted not to reveal her vote during the campaign, saying she wanted Kiwis to have their say on the matter without her influence.

Given the PM's historically high popularity, her lack of public support is likely to be decisive for the No campaign.

Justice Minister Andrew Little said he believed the margin on the cannabis question - 167,000 votes - was too many to change the preliminary result.

"It is highly unlikely the result will get overturned on the specials ... they would have to break 70 per cent yes to overturn the result today," he said.

"The probability of that is so low as to be virtually non existent."

Mr Little also ruled out further decriminalisation pushes in the government's second term, despite a likely parliamentary majority of MPs supporting such a push.

"The electorate has spoken. They are uncomfortable with greater legalisation, which I would interpret as decriminalisation of recereational cannabis ... I think we have to respect that."

Leading advocate for change Auckland Central MP Chloe Swarbrick said she would wait for the final outcome.

"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," she said.

"We've had record numbers of special votes, so I remain optimistic."