Chlöe Swarbrick optimistic in light of unsuccessful cannabis referendum

Green Party's Chlöe Swarbrick has not yet given up on passing the cannabis referendum - despite the preliminary results indicating New Zealanders are narrowly against legal recreational cannabis. 

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The cannabis referendum narrowly failed in the preliminary results, but the Greens MP is hopeful special votes will fall in the yes campaign’s favour. Source: 1 NEWS

Preliminary results for the recreational cannabis referendum showed 53.1% against and 46.1% in support. However, the preliminary result does not include special votes - estimated to make up 17% of the overall result that could impact the result.

Official results are set to come out on November 6.

"Today’s result shows what we had long assumed, that it was going to be really close and that we need to wait for the specials to be sure of the result," Swarbrick said. 

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

"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. 

"Many who have traditionally felt disenfranchised by the political system may have their voices heard at the specials. We’ll wait to see how that plays out next week."

On the other side, National's Nick Smith celebrated the preliminary result, calling it a "victory for common sense". 

"New Zealanders have rightly concluded that legalising recreational cannabis would normalise it, make it more available, increase its use and cause more harm.

"New Zealanders have so far rejected legalisation of recreational cannabis and signalled opposition to the softening of drug crime," he said. 

"The way forward on drug policy is a firm approach on dealers and gangs to restrict supply, increased access to treatment and rehabilitation for users, expansion of specialised drug courts and improved education on drug harm."

Family First's Bob McCoskrie of the Say Nope to Dope campaign said he was "pretty stoked". 

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The preliminary referendum indicated Kiwis were against legalising cannabis. Source: 1 NEWS

"We'll celebrate the win, we're glad New Zealanders said nope to dope and understood the perceived benefits of legalisaiton were not greater than the harms that were going to come on society."

"It's been a hard-fought campaign on both sides. It's good we can have these sorts of debates."

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Preliminary referendum results are out - what happens next?

Justice Minister Andrew Little says it's "highly unlikely" that today's preliminary referendum results will be overturned by the special votes due to come in next week.

"On the cannabis question, the specials would have to break 70% 'yes' in order to overturn that result today, so I think we can be pretty sure that the electorate does not support the legalisation of cannabis," he said. 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern only confirmed today she voted in favour of recreational cannabis in the recent referendum, after keeping her decision secret. 

A spokesperson for Ardern said she would progress any legislation "in line with the will of the people following the release of the final results next week". 

She said earlier this month that no matter the outcome of the referendum, her issues and concerns around cannabis were to ensure "young people do not end up damaging themselves as a result of access, because that is what I saw as a young person".

"Second, I don't want to see people unnecessarily criminalised. Whatever outcome, that’s what I think we should be looking to achieve."