New Zealand Votes to Legalize Euthanasia but Rejects Marijuana

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By Seth Gellman

On the ballot in New Zealand’s October 17th general election were two significant questions of whether recreational marijuana use should be legalized and if euthanasia should be legalized.

Popular Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who won the New Zealand election in a landslide, vocalized her support for the legalization of euthanasia but was more hesitant to release her stance on marijuana. Ardern later revealed that she voted to legalize marijuana.

Ardern’s swing over the nation could not be better exemplified by the ballot, with 65% supporting the legalization of euthanasia. As a result of this, starting November 6th of next year, doctors will be able to prescribe a lethal dose of medicine to patients expected to die from a terminal illness in the next six months. The patients will have to prove physical decline and get approved by two doctors for it.

New Zealand is the 6th nation to legalize euthanasia, with the others being the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Canada, and Columbia. Physician-assisted suicide or assisted dying is legal in a few U.S. states, Switzerland, and the Australian state of Victoria.

For the legalization of Marijuana, the ballot included several questions, including some asking about what specific regulations would be acceptable for a free market with Marijuana. Overall, 48.4% supported legalization while 50.7% opposed it.

Supporters of the legalization of marijuana blamed Ardern, saying that she could have expressed her support instead of staying neutral. However, New Zealand has traditionally taken a conservative stance on drugs legislatively, according to Marta Rychert, a drug policy researcher at Massey University.

Overall, Ardern’s support and sway over the nation was best exemplified by these referendums. She came out in support of the legalization of euthanasia, which passed with overwhelming support, but maintained neutrality of the legalization of marijuana, resulting in a very close vote. Having won the general election in a landslide, Ardern has a lot of work ahead of her to have as successful a second term as her first.

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