New Zealanders vote to legalise euthanasia in landmark referendum but say 'no' to decriminalising cannabis

A pro-marijuana sign in Christchurch Credit: AP/Press Association Images

New Zealanders have overwhelmingly voted to legalise assisted dying in a landmark - and binding - referendum.

But preliminary results showed the country had rejected a vote to legalise recreational marijuana in the October 17 ballot.

New Zealanders emphatically endorsed the End of Life Choice Act 2019, with 65% voting in favour and 34% voting against.

The results announced on Friday represent around 83% of votes counted, but with such strong support, it is not expected to change.

The “No” vote on marijuana was much closer, with 53% voting against legalising the drug for recreational use and 46% voting in favour leaving open a slight chance the measure could still pass once all special votes were counted next week.

Cars in Christchurch pass a billboard urging voters to vote against euthanasia Credit: Mark Baker/AP

In past elections, special votes — which include those cast by overseas voters — have tended to track more liberal than general votes, giving proponents of marijuana legalisation some hope the measure could still pass.

Proponents of legalising the drug were frustrated  Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern would not reveal how she intended to vote ahead of the vote.

Many believed an endorsement by Ms Ardern could have boosted support for the measure, but she said she wanted to leave the decision to New Zealanders.

Ms Ardern said on Friday after the results were released that she had voted in favour of both referendums.