New Zealand voters appear to have rejected legalising recreational marijuana, according to preliminary vote counts released on Friday.

According to the New Zealand Electoral Commission, 1,281,818 Kiwis – 53.1 per cent of the total – cast ballots against the proposed cannabis legalisation and control bill. Another 1,114,485 voted in favour, or 46.1 per cent.

There are still roughly another 480,000 special votes to count – ballots cast by overseas voters, prisoners on remand, people in hospital or managed COVID-19 isolation facilities or those who cast ballots from an electorate they weren’t enrolled in.

While those votes are expected to disproportionately favour legalisation, they’d have to be overwhelming in favour to change the outcome.

Justice Minister Andrew Little told New Zealand media it was “highly unlikely” the special votes would flip the results when the official results are released on November 7.

“On the cannabis question the specials would have to break 70 per cent ‘yes’ in order to overturn that result today, so I think we can be pretty sure that the electorate does not support the legalisations of cannabis,” he said, according to New Zealand’s One News.

If New Zealand had embraced legalisation, that wouldn’t necessarily have created an immediate market opportunity for Australian cannabis companies, since the draft bill Kiwis were voting on prohibited marijuana imports. But a “yes” vote could have boosted the movement for legal recreational cannabis in Australia, industry experts have said.

Marijuana legal reform advocates may have better luck next week in America, where recreational cannabis is already legal in 11 states.

Voters in four more US states – Arizona, Montana, New Jersey and South Dakota – will vote on Tuesday on whether to legalise recreational cannabis, with Mississippi voters casting ballots on whether to legalise medical cannabis.

In a second referendum, Kiwis did vote to overwhelmingly to legalise euthanasia for those with a terminal illness, with 65.2 per cent casting ballots for the measure to legalise assisted dying.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern revealed she voted “yes” to both referendums.