Lighthouse on New Zealand's northernmost point, Cape Reinga.

Jaafar Alnasser

New Zealand PM Considering Referendum to Legalize Cannabis

New Zealand’s newly elected Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she is considering putting the cannabis legalization question to voters, suggesting in a CNBC report that she would like the nation to hold a nationwide binding referendum on the issue before 2020.

“During the campaign I’ve always been very vocal about the fact that I do not believe people should be imprisoned for the personal use of cannabis,” she said in the report. “On the flip-side, I also have concerns around young people accessing a product which can clearly do harm and damage to them.”

The reforms in the nation are being spearheaded by the Green Party, who want to remove all penalties for individuals growing cannabis for medical use and implement age-restricted adult use.

Ross Bell, New Zealand Drug Foundation executive director, indicated he regularly sees polls favoring cannabis law reforms in the country and said that previous government “have not wanted to engage on this issue.”

“Lo and behold the Green Party come along, and allows the country to have the sort of conversation we should have had for a long time,” he said in an interview with CNBC.

Presently, Uruguay is the only nation to have a federally-approved cannabis market; Canada is expected to implement its own legalization scheme by July 1, 2018.

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