New Zealand to Hold Marijuana Vote Under New Leader Ardern

Jacinda Ardern talks to reporters Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017, in Wellington, New Zealand. Ardern will be New Zealand's next prime minister and hopes to take the country on a more liberal path following nine years of rule by the conservatives. (Nick Perry/AP)

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — New Zealand is poised to slash immigration, rethink trade deals and vote on legalizing marijuana under a new government that takes office next week. After nine years of conservative rule, liberal Jacinda Ardern was confirmed as the nation’s next prime minister on Thursday, following negotiations after a close September election.

Ardern’s Labour Party will be joined in a coalition by the small, nationalist New Zealand First party and will also get support from the liberal Green Party. The incoming government has not yet released details of its plans, but a number of things could change based on the coalition’s campaign promises and comments from Ardern.

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Cannabis Referendum

Ardern said Friday the country would hold a referendum on whether to legalize recreational marijuana at some point over the next three years. She didn’t say whether she favored legalization but said the current system wasn’t working well.

“I’ve always been very open about the fact that I do not believe that people should be imprisoned for personal use of cannabis,” Ardern said. “On the flip side, I also have concerns around young people accessing a product which can clearly do harm and damage to them.”

Ardern said she wanted to hear the view from New Zealanders and figure out the correct wording for the referendum before taking a stance.