New Zealand votes to legalise euthanasia but not cannabis

New Zealanders have voted resoundingly to legalise assisted suicide, although another proposal to legalise recreational cannabis appears to have been narrowly rejected.

The binding referendum returned 65 per cent of votes in favour of allowing euthanasia and 34 per cent against after approximately 83 per cent of votes had been counted.

Asked whether marijuana should be legalised, 53 per cent voted against and 46 per cent voted for.

The margin on the cannabis poll is small enough that the result could be swung by special votes – mostly from New Zealanders living abroad – according to the country’s Electoral Commission.

Almost half a million special votes remain to be counted next week, with the final results published on November 6.

Previous referendums have seen special votes tend towards the more politically liberal option, giving proponents some hope, but a large swing would be required in this case.

Green MP Chloe Swarbrick, her party’s spokesperson on drug law reform, told a press conference: ‘We need around 67 per cent of those specials to be skewed towards ‘yes’ … I think it’s entirely plausible’.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, whose centre-left Labour party won a second term by a landslide earlier this month, today revealed she had voted in favour of legalisation in both polls.

Campaigners in favour of legalising cannabis had expressed frustration that she did not reveal her voting intention, denying them a high-profile endorsement.

New Zealand is now set to become the seventh country in the world to legalise euthanasia.

Matt Vickers, who took on his late wife Lecretia Seales’ campaigning on the issue, told the BBC the result was ‘a victory for compassion and kindness’ after the result was announced..

He added: ‘I am grateful that terminally ill New Zealanders will have a say about the ends of their lives.’

The proposal on cannabis would legalise the sale and use of the drug, and would make New Zealand the third country to do so after Uruguay and Canada.

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