New Zealand Voters Legalize Euthanasia, But Reject Federally Legalizing Cannabis
The voluntary end-of-life measure passed with 65 percent support, while weed was rejected by 53 percent of voters. So, remember: You can go to New Zealand to die, but not to get high.
Published on November 2, 2020

Image via

After New Zealand’s general election tally on Friday, three major results have been reported, and one of them is the opposite of what we’re hoping goes down in Arizona, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota tomorrow.

First, popular Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern retained her office by a landslide. That seems dope, considering she’s handled COVID like a boss. Secondly, 65 percent of voters opted to legalize euthanasia. Dying with dignity? No complaints here. Finally, New Zealand voters rejected legalizing recreational cannabis by a margin of 53 percent. What the…? We thought you Kiwis were cool!

While medical marijuana is already legal in New Zealand, proponents of adult-use legalization said the wording of the measure may have set it up to fail. The initiative not only required voters to agree to legalization, but also to green-light the government’s proposed plans for a marijuana marketplace. 

Another issue was that Prime Minister Ardern refused to take a position on weed legalization — until after she said she voted in favor of it on Friday.

Richard Shaw, a politics professor at Massey University, seemed to speak for many when he said, “There’s a certain measure of disaffection, frustration, and no small amount of anger that she’s now indicated she has this position and hasn’t clarified why she didn’t take this position before the election.”

During a debate on September 18, it should be noted, Ardern acknowledged that she had used weed “a long time ago.”

With up to a half-million “special votes” that still need to be counted, a theoretical chance still exists that the measure might pass.

“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,” Green Party representative Chlöe Swarbrick said. “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.”

Regardless of that optimism, Justice Minister Andrew Little said the government would cease any efforts to legalize or decriminalize marijuana starting now.

The New Zealand Drug Foundation (NZDF), a leading reform advocacy group, expressed disappointment but noted that the nation is hoping for improved policies.

“Although a majority of New Zealanders did not vote for the proposed model of legalization, the debate has shown a clear public desire for legal change in some form,” said Tuari Potiki, chairman of the New Zealand Drug Foundation. “It’s time for an overhaul of the Misuse of Drugs Act, which is no longer fit for purpose. The problems caused by prohibition will not disappear by themselves.”

The euthanasia measure passed with enough of a majority that it will automatically go into effect as law next year. And with that, New Zealand will join Belgium, Canada, Colombia, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands in the legal euthanasia club. Of those countries, recreational weed is only fully legal in Canada.

Just be sure to vote in the US election tomorrow. That’s what matters now — and forever after. 

Mike McPadden
Mike McPadden is the author of "Heavy Metal Movies" and the upcoming "Last American Virgins." He writes about movies, music, and crime in Chicago. Twitter @mcbeardo
Share this article with your friends!
By using our site you agree to our use of cookies to deliver a better experience.