Kiwis have voted no on a cannabis referendum, 53%-46%, the New Zealand government announced with more than 80% of the votes tallied.
The Cannabis Legalization and Control Bill would have allowed adults over 20 to purchase a maximum of 14 grams per day and grow two plants at home or four per household. The Cannabis Regulatory Authority would have overseen commercial regulation and taxation.
One important aspect of the bill was how it would impact the country's Māori indigenous minority.
"Legalizing cannabis will mean improvements in health, justice and economic development for Māori," New Zealand's Drug Foundation explained.
"Māori are targeted by police more under our drug law and are three times more likely to get a cannabis conviction than non-Māori with the same level of cannabis use. Legalization will mean fewer Māori encountering the criminal justice system and fewer trapped in endless cycles of reconviction.
"Legalization will also improve health outcomes. Māori are twice as likely as non-Māori to suffer a substance use disorder, but they find it hardest to access health and treatment services. The Cannabis Legalization and Control Bill puts money from cannabis taxes into health and prevention programms that will benefit Māori.
"The Bill aims to actively promote Māori access to the financial benefits that a new regulated market will bring. This will be especially important in the regions in which cannabis is a common crop. Legalization will bring news jobs and income.
"The Bill allows every person to grow two cannabis plants at home, or four per household. Allowing small-scale home cultivation was an important issue for Māori during the drafting of the Bill. It is often used as rongoa, to treat a variety of medical conditions. The home cultivation provisions will allow people to continue this practice but without fear of the law."
Rongoa is the traditional Māori healing system.
Voting took place on October 17 and the results are just coming in. Prime Minister Jacinda Arden voted for the referendum, but wouldn't say so before the election.
New Zealand's Misuse of Drugs Act of 1975 banned possession, sale and cultivation of cannabis. While possession is punishable by a maximum of three month in jail and a $500 fine, sellers can receive eight years, growers seven and hash makers as many as 14. Unfortunately, these draconian punishments will remains on the New Zealand books for the forseeable future.
In 2012, it was reported that 540,000 Kiwis use cannabis (70,000 per day). That's more than 10% of New Zealand's five million population. According to New Zealand NORML: "We have one of the highest rates of use in the world: 52% of New Zealanders aged 15-45 admit to having used cannabis at some time, and 16% describe themselves as current users."
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