It was announced yesterday that a number of New Zealanders were going to take the reeferendum result to court.
From Radio New Zealand:
A legal bid is under way to get the results of the cannabis referendum thrown out.
A group of more than 350 people is asking the High Court to void the vote on the Cannabis and Control Bill, claiming poor and inaccurate information generated confusion among voters.
It also claims the Electoral Commission reinforced that misinformation.
The bill that would have legalised cannabis was narrowly defeated, with 50.7 percent of voters voting against it, and 48.4 percent for it.
Drug Reform advocate Blair Anderson is one of the people taking the case. He told Checkpoint New Zealanders heard far too much from the “no” vote during the campaign and said there was a failure to correct misinformation.
“We saw ads in the mainstream newspapers of things like dopey dairies, which people will remember had cannabis leaves all over it, with kids on skateboards in front of it.
“There was no such provision within the actual legalisation and control bill to do that. In fact, it was specifically excluded.
“There were the things like ‘gummy bears, the menu for kids’ and various others that were publicised in mainstream media and social media and so forth.
“Notwithstanding the fact there was also what I call almost stage-managed presentation of people that were obviously smoking a joint in hoodies, whereas in actual fact, we have a mainstream concurrence with the use of cannabis. Our own health and development study here in Christchurch – four out of five respondents in that study have used cannabis in their life. And obviously, most of them have come to no harm,” he said.
“There was an expert committee that was assembled, and part of its function was certainly to correct any misinformation.”
But Anderson said problems extended beyond what he calls the failure of that committee.
“Even to the extent that we heard that the Medical Association didn’t approve of the bill, and then at the end of the period, just after the bulk of people had voted, had come out and said quite the converse.
“That opportunity to explore these things was not taken by mainstream media for the greater part. We never saw the advocacy, anywhere in the electoral process, for instance, of the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party that had participated in nine MMP elections, and no one was consulted as to what they thought the referendum should look like.”
The proposal is an interesting and novel use of the law. Under the Citizen Initiated Referenda Act 1993 the Court has “jurisdiction to inquire into and adjudicate on any matter relating to the application in any manner that the court thinks fit”. At the conclusion of the hearing the Court “must determine whether the indicative referendum is void because of some irregularity that in the court’s opinion materially affected the result of the indicative referendum”. It can also effectively do a recount but the grounds advanced here do not suggest that the count itself was inaccurate.
There certainly was a one sided feel to the campaign and as noted by Weka the New Zealand Medical Association did a somewhat impressive about face on its view of the referendum. But I do not think that a private organisation changing its view is going to be reason to upset the referendum.
The case will be interesting. But cases involving judicially analysing the democratic process tend to be somewhat fraught affairs as America is currently showing.