Preliminary results show a slim majority of voters in New Zealand rejected the country’s referendum on a proposed bill to legalize and regulate sales of adult-use cannabis, the country’s Electoral Commission announced today.

However, the official outcome will not be known until “special” ballots are tallied, which will take place next week. Those ballots – cast by overseas voters, the military, prisons and hospitals – add up to an estimated 480,000 votes.

Since the result it provisional, it is possible next week’s results could determine the final outcome.

Wellington-based Business and Economic Research (BERL Economics) previously estimated a regulated adult-use cannabis market could generate some 1.5 billion New Zealand dollars ($1 billion) in retail sales.

Provisionally, some 1.11 million voters supported the referendum to legalize recreational marijuana in New Zealand.

About 1.28 million were opposed.

The Commission had said it would count the referendum ballots after the Oct. 17 vote to focus on parliamentary elections held the same day.

The Labour Party, which won a commanding majority on Oct. 17, has promised to introduce the Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill into Parliament if a majority of voters support the referendum.

That proposed bill – the Cannabis Legalization and Control Bill – was released by the government earlier this year to give voters a clear picture of what they were voting for, or against.

Business leaders had called that legislation “world-leading” for provisions that would reserve market share for micro-cultivators, prioritize indigenous-run business and allow for consumption lounges.

Only two countries have legalized adult-use cannabis at a national level so far – Canada and Uruguay.

Matt Lamers is Marijuana Business Daily’s international editor, based near Toronto. He can be reached at [email protected].

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