Wellington, New Zealand: Incoming New Zealand Prime Minister, 37-year-old Jacinda Ardern and the Green Party will pursue legalizing recreational-use marijuana via a referendum vote within the next three years, the party said Friday. The party said a vote on legalization is part of a deal with the Labor Party, and an indication of a liberal tilt by the country’s new government, to be led by Jacinda Ardern.
The two political parties comprise a coalition that controls New Zealand Parliament and named the 37-year-old Ardern as the prime minister designate last week. She will be the youngest New Zealand prime minister in 150 years.
Labor parliament leader James Shaw said regulated sale of marijuana in the U.S. states of Colorado and Hawaii and parts of Canada indicate potential benefits of legalizing the drug.
“It does seem that the public mood has shifted, so we thought, well maybe it is time to put that to the test,” he said.
Shaw also cited a recent campaign by New Zealand trade unionist Helen Kelly, who sought to legalize medical marijuana use before her death last year.
The Greens Party has been campaigning for 20 years to change New Zealand’s laws on marijuana possession and use. Its drug law reform policy aims to make it legal for personal use — including possession and cultivation of crops.
Party members have made clear that an undetermined age limit will be enforced, and that current drunk-driving laws will be updated.
37-year-old Jacinda Ardern will be the country’s youngest leader in 150 years, and she’s the youngest-ever head of the Labour Party.
“It is an absolute honor and a privilege to have the ability to form a government for all New Zealanders,” she said. “Labour has always believed that government should be a partner in ensuring an economy that works and delivers for all New Zealanders. We also believe in a government that looks after its environment and ultimately looks after its people. And I believe that Labour has found true allies in Parliament to deliver on that.”
She was elected the leader of her party less than three months ago. Immediately, her party’s poor polling numbers began to climb so rapidly it was dubbed “Jacindamania.”
When New Zealand held its election on Sept. 23, the National Party won the most seats — 56 — but not the 61 it needed for a parliamentary majority. The country’s leadership hung in the balance until a populist party called New Zealand First decided to join the left bloc with Labour and the Green Party.
That put New Zealand First’s leader, Winston Peters, in the kingmaker role. Peters has been offered the deputy prime minister role in the coalition government.
The National Party had held power for nine years, and outgoing Prime Minister Bill English said he was disappointed at the outcome. But even he acknowledged Ardern’s quick ascent.
“That’s a fairly remarkable performance given that just 10 or 12 weeks ago she was the deputy leader of a failing opposition,” he said.