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New Zealand’s High Court considers bid to declare cannabis referendum results void

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Pro-cannabis activists have filed a legal bid to have the results of New Zealand’s cannabis referendum discarded. 

Over 350 people have asked the High Court to declare the referendum on the ‘Cannabis Legislation and Control Bill’ void. The results of the referendum showed that 50.7% of voters voted against the bill while 48.4% voted for the bill. 

Activists believe that the referendum was not fair and balanced, as the results of the vote were influenced by heavy amounts of misinformation spread by the New Zealand Electoral Commission and the “No” campaign. This includes fear mongering and the lies spread by Say No To Dope, who claimed that the proposed bill allowed minors to access cannabis, that drug use would grow by 30% nationwide and that the bill would legalise cannabis edibles. 

Say no to dope slogan
‘Say Nope to Dope’ slogan

New Zealand did appoint an expert committee with the job of correcting misinformation, but the committee did little to stop the already rampant spread of it. 

Drug Reform advocate Blair Anderson is part of the case for disregarding the results. Anderson feels that the referendum was mismanaged as key figures were not consulted as part of the process. This includes the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party (ALCP) who have participated in nine general elections since 1996.

While ALCP fought hard to educate Kiwi’s about the pro’s and con’s of cannabis during the leadup to the referendum, their voices were drowned out by organisations like the NZ Medical Association (NZMA). Despite being asked to clarify their position, the NZMA only came out in support of the “Yes” vote after voting had begun

In a statement to RNZ’s Checkpoint, Anderson clarified that the legal bid is not aiming to disagree with the result of the referendum but to criticise how the referendum was carried out. Anderson feels correcting the misinformation surrounding the vote is also essential. 

What’s really cute is he (the judge) can call in people that were responsible for some of the misinformation and ask them to validate and justify it.

The bid to dismiss the results of the cannabis is being heard in the High Court. The Electoral Commission has until Friday to respond. If the judge rules in favour of the bid, another referendum may be held within six months.

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