Could New Zealand be the next country to legalize cannabis?
It seems New Zealanders themselves will be the judges of that, now that government officials are considering holding a referendum on the issue.
New Zealand’s new prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, says she wants to foster a national discussion about cannabis and plans to consult with her Cabinet and experts before landing on on a referendum date.
“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,” Ardern recently told reporters.
“On the flip-side, I also have concerns around young people accessing a product which can clearly do harm and damage to them.”
Ardern, of the Labour Party, is set to govern the country with a coalition government of her own party, the Green Party of New Zealand and NZ First, the country’s populist party.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, it’s the Green Party leading the charge on cannabis legalization. The Greens believe cannabis should be legal for personal use – including possession and cultivation.
Ross Bell, executive director of the New Zealand Drug Foundation, told CNBC that support for cannabis legalization in the country floats around 65 percent in polls conducted by his organization.
"It is over 40-years-old and like many other countries, successive governments have not wanted to engage on this issue," said Bell.
"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."
While no decision has been made regarding when the referendum will take place, Bell said the government will likely want it held before 2020.