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New Zealand to hold referendum on recreational marijuana use
Wellington, Dec 18 (IANS) New Zealand will hold a referendum in 2020 to decide on the legalisation of recreational marijuana, Justice Minister Andrew Little announced on Tuesday, a week after Parliament gave the green light to its use for medicinal purposes.
"We need to fine-tune some details, but we are informing the Election Commission when it has to be held," the Minister told the media, adding that the referendum will be held alongside the 2020 general election.
Among the details still being discussed is the wording of the question that will be posed in the referendum, which comes as part of the agreement with the Green Party, one of the partners in government.
Leader of the opposition National Party, Simon Bridges slammed the decision to hold the referendum at the same time as the elections, considering it a "cynical" gesture that seeks to distract the electorate from "central issues" such as governance and the economy.
The New Zealand Parliament on December 11 approved the medical use of cannabis, which will soon be available in the country with a prescription for patients with chronic pain.
The amendment to the Drug Abuse Law, which passed the third and final reading in the legislature, eliminates the definition of cannabis as a controlled drug and converts it into a prescription drug.
Fifty-two per cent of New Zealanders aged between 15 and 45 have used cannabis at some point in their lives, of which 16 per cent are frequent users, according to NORML NZ, an organisation seeking legalisation of this substance in New Zealand, one of the countries with the highest rate of consumption.