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New Zealand's new PM, gov't to hold marijuana referendum by '20

By Ed Adamczyk
New Zealand's Green Party announced Friday that the country will hold a referendum on marijuana possession by 2020. <a class="tpstyle" href="https://www.facebook.com/jacindaardern">Photo courtesy of Jacinda Ardern/Facebook</a>
New Zealand's Green Party announced Friday that the country will hold a referendum on marijuana possession by 2020. Photo courtesy of Jacinda Ardern/Facebook

Oct. 20 (UPI) -- New Zealand's Green Party -- and incoming Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern -- are seeking a referendum vote within the next three years on legalizing recreational-use marijuana.

The party said Friday that 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 Ardern.

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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.

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Party members have made clear that an undetermined age limit will be enforced, and that current drunk-driving laws will be updated.

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