Hundreds seek court dismissal of New Zealand cannabis referendum results

Posted on December 20th, 2020 by Global Ganja Report and tagged , , , , .

OceaniaA group of more than 350 citizens filed suit against the Electoral Commission in the High Court of New Zealand on Dec. 6, seeking to have the "No" results of the country’s recent cannabis legalization referendum dismissed.

In October, 50.7% of New Zealand voters responded “No” to the  referendum question "Do you support the proposed Cannabis Legalisation & Control Bill?"—a margin of 2.3% on the "Yes" vote. According to a Checkpoint radio broadcast, the group has asked the High Court to void the "No" majority result. Specifically, it is challenging the  result under Subpart 4 of the Referendums Framework Act 2019. Under the Act, groups of 200 or more electors who are  "dissatisfied with the result of the referendum" are empowered to petition the High Court to inquire into the conduct of the referendum or those associated with it.

Blair Anderson, one of the petitioners and an advocates drug law reform, told Checkpoint that misinformation surrounding the cannabis referendum had not been corrected by electoral authorities. If the petitioners are successful in getting the High Court to declare the cannabis referendum as void, section 32 of the Act requires a new referendum on the issue to take place within six months.

Anderson especially noted failure to accurately represent the position of the New Zealand Medical Association, which changed its position from one of opposition to one of neutrality mere days before the vote.

"If the judge thinks this was inherently wrong and it influenced the outcome, he's probably on a bound to say the referendum is null and void," Anderson commented, emphasizing that "[i]t's not the result of the referendum we’re disputing. We're disputing the conduct of that referendum”.

Not all commentators are as optimistic. Professor Andrew Geddis of the University of Otago wrote in an article for The Spinoff that "this legal challenge to the referendum stands no chance of success in court," highlighting vagueness in the petitioners' allegations.

Anderson said believes that making cannabis reform an issue for Members of Parliament to debate and hear evidence upon at a Select Committee is "the right thing to do" rather than having another referendum.

From Jurist, Dec. 8. Used with permission. 


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