New Zealanders approve euthanasia in a referendum, reject legalization of recreational cannabis

Around 65% of voters are believed to have approved the proposal to permit euthanasia while around 53% rejected the legalization of recreational cannabis

October 30, 2020 by Peoples Dispatch
Credit : Radio New Zealand

According to the preliminary results announced by the electoral commission of New Zealand on Friday, October 30, more than 65% of the voters in the country who participated in a referendum approved a legislation allowing euthanasia. Though nearly half a million votes are still to be counted and the final results will be announced on November 6, it is by and large a clear “yes.”

New Zealand held two referendums on Thursday. In the second referendum, the proposal to legalize the use of recreational cannabis was rejected with more than 53% voters saying “no.”

The “yes” vote on the legalization of recreational cannabis would have made New Zealand just the third country after Canada and Paraguay in the world to do so. The opposition Green Party, which supported the legalization move, criticized the Jacinda Ardern government for not endorsing the “yes” vote prior to polling, leading to confusion. Ardern had explicitly supported the vote for euthanasia while being far more reticent in supporting the legalization of recreational cannabis. A spokesperson for the prime minister said she had voted ‘yes’ on both the issues.

Jacinda Ardern’s government in 2018 said in the UN that it believes in drug harm reduction instead of a criminal justice approach and the Thursday’s referendum was proposed in that direction.  

Euthanasia is legal in very few countries in the world. Even in countries where it is legal, the terminally ill person seeking it needs to satisfy certain conditions. 

After the approval of the legalization of euthanasia, the government has to make sure that the End of Life Choice Act is implemented before October 2021. The law has been finalized after a lot of debate and revisions in the last few months in New Zealand. According to the law, a terminally ill person seeking to end their life needs the approval of at least two doctors and fulfill a long checklist before getting the approval.