Why we'll have to wait for the referendum results

The votes are in, and New Zealanders have had their say on whether they want euthanasia and recreational cannabis to be legalised.

But they will have to wait a little longer to know the result.

Will we get the referendum results tonight?

No. The first glimpse of the referendum results will be in two weeks, on October 30.

That will be the preliminary results, based on "ordinary" votes.

A final referendum result will be announced a week later, on November 6, which includes special votes (people who voted from outside their electorate, overseas, a prison or hospital, or enrolled late).


The Electoral Commission says the priority tonight

should be on counting party votes and electorate votes so the election results can be released.

The commission strongly recommended to the Government that it delay the referendum count until after election day.

Justice Minister Andrew Little agreed, saying that the results were not critical to the formation of a new government.

If there's a majority "yes" vote for euthanasia, how soon will it be legal?

Not for another year - or to be precise, a year after the official referendum result is announced. The official result will be on November 6, so the End of Life Choice Act would likely come into force on November 6, 2021.

The delay is to allow time for systems to be updated, and for new oversight committees to be set up - including a group which will develop a list of doctors, psychiatrists and pharmacists who are willing to take part in assisted dying.

The proposed law change gives terminal patients access to assisted dying if they have the approval of two doctors.

And what about a "no" vote?

Nothing will happen. The status quo will remain, meaning voluntary euthanasia or aiding and abetting suicide will remain illegal.

What about a "yes" vote for the cannabis referendum?

It's more political. A piece of law has been drafted, and Labour and Greens have committed to passing it if they are in power. They could make minor changes to the law after public consultation.

It is not known when it would come into force. This depends on the government's law-making agenda. But once introduced, it would likely take around a year to pass into law. So cannabis legalisation would likely take place in 2021 or 2022.

NZ First has not committed to supporting the bill, and could vote against it depending on what emerges during public consultation on the law. The Maori Party does not have a position, but co-leader John Tamihere and several other candidates say they are voting "yes" in the referendum.

National and Act say that if they were in power they would introduce the bill, but it wouldn't progress further if that's what a select committee recommended.

National and Act would likely hold the majority on the committee under a National-Act Government.

The law would create a legal framework for the sale and supply of cannabis, and allow people to possess and grow a small amount of cannabis for personal use.








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