New Zealand set to reject cannabis liberalisation laws

New Zealand has provisionally voted to legalise euthanasia but is on course to reject law changes that would allow recreational marijuana use, the country’s Electoral Commission said on Friday (30 October).

The likely rejection is potentially bad news for underwriters given that insurance for marijuana producers is becoming an important emerging risk in those western democracies which have adopted a more liberal approach to cultivation and use of the plant.

Reliable numbers on the size of the industry are hard to come by but legal spending on cannabis in the US was just under $10bn last year, while cannabis companies attracted $14bn in funding, according to BDS Analytics, an industry consultancy.

Meanwhile, there are estimates that the legal US cannabis industry would pay some $1bn in annual premiums were it insured to levels commensurate with other businesses.

New Zealand voted on the two referendums this month while casting ballots during a general election that returned Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to power.

Issuing preliminary results, the commission said there are nearly half a million mostly overseas-based special votes still to be counted. These votes will not be enough to alter the vote on euthanasia but may be enough to swing the count on recreational marijuana, it said.

Full results will be published on 6 November, but with more than 65.2% of voters in favour of the recently passed legislation permitting euthanasia, New Zealand will become the seventh country to allow assisted suicide.

While euthanasia has been endorsed, however, recreational marijuana use is still up in the air.

New Zealand’s Electoral Commission said 53.1% of voters opposed the country becoming only the third to legalise the adult use and sale of cannabis, following Canada and Uruguay.

In 2017, Ardern supported the cannabis referendum plan in order to secure enough support to form a coalition government.

Throughout the campaign Arden refused to say which way she would vote, but a representative on Friday said the prime minister voted in support of both referendums.