Stuff co.nz 8 March 2021
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s decision not to reveal her position on the cannabis debate during election campaigning could have been a “decisive factor” in last year’s referendum, academics believe.
Ardern and her Labour Party did not take a public stance on the legalisation of cannabis during 2020’s election campaign, despite facing repeated questions over it.
Efforts to legalise cannabis were ultimately defeated, with 48.4 per cent of voters in favour and 50.7 per cent against.
“Referendum voting is often more volatile and unpredictable than voting in elections based on party politics,” said researchers Marta Rychert and Chris Wilkins, both of Massey University’s College of Health.
“Adding to this volatility, the governing Labour Party decided the cannabis referendum would be a ‘conscience’ rather than a ‘party’ vote,” they wrote in a research paper.
“The self-imposed neutrality of the centre-left Labour Party and its popular leader may have been a decisive factor in the narrow defeat.”
A spokeswoman for the prime minister declined to comment. Ardern has previously said she wanted New Zealanders to form their own views.
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