New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Arden has refused to disclose her vote on the nations cannabis referendum, after being challenged by opposition leader earlier this week.
The leader of the National Party Judith Collins has challenged PM Jacinda Arden to reveal whether or not she is voting to legalise cannabis in the countries upcoming referendum. Held in just over a month, the referendum asks the question: ‘Do you support the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill.’
If the vote returns a majority ‘yes’ answer, the bill will then be introduced into parliament. If legalised, it allows adults over the age of 20 to buy 14 grams of cannabis and consume it on licensed or private property. While the National Party have declared they will be voting ‘no’, the Labour party has no official stance – allowing members to vote as they see fit.
Already, the parties Justice Spokesperson and former Health Spokesperson have agreed to vote for the legislation. Like many New Zealanders, the pair are voting ‘yes’ as a way to correct policing measures that disproportionally target Māori people. According to a report released by the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor, Māori citizens are three times more likely to be arrested and convicted for cannabis-related crimes than non-Māori citizens.
The report also found that legalising recreational cannabis would weaken the illegal market, reduce the harm done by the drug and reduce police bias against Māori people. Māori communities also historically lack access to drug-treatment programs. Commenting on the report, writer Juliet Gerrard told RNZ the following:
Māori have borne the brunt of biased enforcement and the negative health effects of cannabis being illegal. Legalising cannabis could have important positive implications.
Despite Collin’s challenge, Arden remains silent, maintaining that her vote is as good as everyone else’s. She has also commented that she wants to be able to remain objective if the legislation is introduced into parliament.
Collins has declared that “absolute codswallop”.
If you’d like to know more about the referendum, please watch the video below.