Possible double referendum – cannabis and euthanasia

The prospect of a referendum to accept or reject legislation decided in parliament for the personal use of cannabis has already been raised – with the referendum possible by late next year. See Cannabis legislation and referendum in 2019?

Now it has been suggested that a similar democratic process be used for euthanasia.

Newshub: Kiwis could vote on euthanasia and cannabis at the same time

New Zealand First said it would support the voluntary euthanasia Bill currently before Parliament if a conscience vote allowing a binding referendum on the law could be held.

Justice Minister Andrew Little said if the referendum goes ahead, it could make sense to combine the two referenda.

“If you’re gonna do one, you might as well do a job lot,” he explained. “It would make sense to not have to spend a lot of money on a succession of referenda.”

It does make sense to have a combined referendum.

And for conscience issues like these it makes a lot of sense to have Parliament decide on possible legislation – with the usual public input via submissions and lobbying – and then to put that to referendum to let the public vote to accept or reject the legislation.

This is a very good way to improve public participation in politics.

It should also help focus MPs in Parliament on coming up with the best possible legislation for any given issue.

There’s no decision yet on when the referendum on cannabis will be held.

“Cabinet just hasn’t got around to considering the details of it,” Mr Little told Newshub.

“Obviously, when we consider a date for it, we need to weigh up [whether] we run it at the same time as the general election – there would be some cost saving with that – or the other question is, do we want the general election dominated by the referendum?”

Important public issues like cannabis and euthanasia would be better addressed in a referendum separate from an election, so that the influence of party politics, by design or by association, was minimised.

The Greens have different preferences on when the cannabis referendum should be held.

Green Party leader James Shaw would prefer to hold the referendum at the same time as the election.

“People are going to be going to the polling booths anyway,” Mr Shaw said.

Shaw should rethink this – he should consider what is best for public participation in democracy rather than what he thinks might work best for the Green Party.

As to whether the referendum could end up dominating the election period, Mr Shaw said “there are ways you can stay out of the politics of it.”

Get real. There is no way of avoiding politics dominating general elections, and it is unlikely any party – including the Greens – would not put their own interests ahead of referendum choices.

Green MP Chlöe Swarbrick has shown some support for a separate referendum.

Greens spokesperson of drug law reform Chloe Swarbrick said if it’s held in 2019, that could avoid politicising the issue.

“If we hold it in 2019, it may not be deeply politicised, polarised or pigeon-holed – and we are hopefully able to have more of an evidentiary discussion.

“If we hold it in 2020 we might end up with something where it dominates the issues and we don’t end up talking about things like housing, criminal justice or healthcare.”

She also liked a Tweet of mine yesterday that applauded the legislation-referendum approach separate to the general election.

I think that it would provide a very good template for improving public democratic participation, and and excellent way to decide on what to do about cannabis and euthanasia law.

And I think that having two issues to vote on at the same time would enhance the process, as long as it was separate from a general election.

Leave a comment


  1. She won’t be able to commit unless she gets agreement from her Cabinet and from the Greens.

    • Gezza

       /  25th May 2018

      Has Jacinda been asked if she ever tried or used it?
      Pretty much a standard question to national leaders these days isn’t it?

  2. Zedd

     /  24th May 2018

    I agree that IF they are going to run a postal ‘reeferendum’ in 2019, then why not add ‘assisted dying’ & maybe other questions too.
    After the ‘Key-Flag’ debacle, ($26mil ?) it could be seen as a high cost, for just one question.. :/

    • any other vexxing issues, perhaps a referendum on means testing super till age 70 for example?

      • Zedd

         /  25th May 2018


        the biggest issue really, is; ‘why run a referendum.. IF there is not a commitment to implementing the outcome’.. it should be BINDING, especially if over 66% vote against status quo, in some form. BUT they are reportedly just ‘umming & ahhing’ about this. If they promised this, as part of the C&S agreement, then the Greens should demand it be a binding reeferendum.

        All those in ‘the reform movement’ need to start lobbying their MPs (via email or even kanohi to kanohi), on this.. starting RIGHT NOW !! :/

        • Alan Wilkinson

           /  25th May 2018

          Obviously this is just a delaying tactic, Zedd. Your favourite party ran out of working groups and needed another excuse.

          • Zedd

             /  25th May 2018

            ‘Obviously this is just a delaying tactic, Zedd. Your favourite party…’

            under MMP we get two votes & I dont do the ‘double tick thing’ (thats FPP thinking) I actually give my party vote to a different party, than my electorate vote.. so please enlighten us Alan, which party you think is my favourite ?
            * I’ll give you two guesses, if you like 😀

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  25th May 2018

              You voted Labour electorate and Legalise Cannabis party.

            • Zedd

               /  25th May 2018

              WRONG !

            • Zedd

               /  25th May 2018

              have another go…. 😀

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  25th May 2018

              That was two.

            • Gezza

               /  25th May 2018

              You voted Maori Party & Act, Zedd?

            • PartisanZ

               /  25th May 2018

              ALCP Candidate … Green Party …?

            • Zedd

               /  26th May 2018

              how did you guess ?

              actually I do prefer Act over Natl; they support cannabis reform 🙂

  3. PartisanZ

     /  25th May 2018

    I am not so sure about putting the two together on the same ballot …

    Some sort of alarm bell is ringing.

    I doubt there’ll be any scientific evidence to support my suspicion, but I suspect putting two such questions together could have unforeseen consequences, because of the different and relative magnitudes of the issues …

    Like the possible ‘conservativism’ surrounding End-of-Life-Choice – especially if its called ‘euthanasia’ – influencing the essentially ‘progressive’ cannabis issue … One issue ‘rubbing off’ on the other?

    I don’t mean just internally within each voter’s conscience either. There is going to be an enormous, powerful and very persuasive Secular-Christian Right-Wing Conservative campaign against End-of-Life-Choice.

    Expect it to get really vicious and nasty – including major misinformation like “they can do it to you” and “do you want elder abuse to include … ” – and expect the big money to be behind the NO vote … With advertising that may either be directly linked to the cannabis question or, once again, merely rub-off on it …

    The question of binding referendum is another issue altogether … especially in an environment like the “persuasion and influence” one we are going to see surrounding End-of-Life-Choice … mark my words … Take note of the effect the Peter Shirtcliffe campaign had on the second MMP referendum …

    The final decision alone about what to call ‘Death-with-Dignity’ could sway the issue either side of 50% …

    • PartisanZ

       /  25th May 2018

      A decent computerized polling and voting system could sort out many of the ‘challenges’ faced by so-called ‘democracy’ today, notably the seeming lack of democracy in it …

      But the same technology must also be used to ensure that maximum information is impartially available about each issue …

      The best democracy will come from a knowledgeable electorate …

  1. Possible double referendum – cannabis and euthanasia — Your NZ – NZ Conservative Coalition

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s