- Today the final cannabis referendum count was released (including special votes)

- No 50.7% (Number of votes received: 1,474,635).

- Yes 48.4% (Number of votes received: 1,406,973).

- Total votes received: 2,908,071, vote difference 67,662.

Despite the gap closing slightly through the special vote count, recreational cannabis use continues to remain illegal under the Misuse of Drugs Act.

The result today reflects that the majority of those who voted in this year’s general election were against the proposed model of legalisation for recreational cannabis use, however there was still a significant portion of our communities, reflected in the minimal percentage difference of 2.3% who were clear through their "no" votes that the status quo is not working.

Drug use has many mental, physical, social, financial and justice related implications and through the current judicial approach these impacts are not appropriately considered nor supported. It is imperative that social and health mechanisms take priority in the management of drug related harm.

Hāpai Te Hauora CEO Selah Hart says, "We must hold the government to account and continue to advocate for real systematic change that ensures that cannabis use does not continue to criminalise our people and contribute to recidivist relationships with the justice system".

Jessikha Leatham-Vlasic, Hāpai Te Hauora’s Māori Public Health Kaiwhakahaere says, "It is evident that there is strong public mandate for decriminalisation at the very least - we will continue these conversations with our communities so that our advocacy work best reflects their needs and aspirations".

"While there were strong public health regulations built into this legislation, our communities were clear that not only were there many areas of the proposed bill that would have needed strengthening to ensure equitable outcomes for Māori, they also expressed a lack of trust in NZ’s current social and health sectors to be able to effectively respond to the inevitable increase in pressure on these systems." Leatham-Vlasic continues.

Hart acknowledged that health-focussed cannabis law reform is a potential advocacy focus moving forward, she says, "we cannot continue to criminalise Māori for cannabis use, we must do better, as the implications don’t just effect the individual but impact is intergenerational". "As Māori Public Health leaders, it is our responsibility to ensure that we take the learnings from tobacco & alcohol controls and ensure that cannabis is most effectively regulated, particularly for our Māori communities who experience considerable inequities related to the harms of all of these substances".

Hāpai is encouraged at the turn out of Māori to the voting booths - whether or not they participated in the referendums, it reflects an increase in awareness of the importance of civic participation and ensuring our voices are contributing to the process.

To view the breakdown of referendum votes by electorate, click here.