The Government has ruled out wider drug law reforms - including legalising or decriminalising cannabis - for the "foreseeable future" in the wake of the '"no" result in the cannabis referendum.
But Justice Minister Andrew Little says current drug laws will be reviewed to ensure that people whose worst offence is drug possession are "almost automatically" given a health referral rather than face prosecution.
Currently, only about 10.7 per cent of people caught by police are given a health referral, according to police data.
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The preliminary referendum results, revealed today, showed 53.1 per cent voting "no" on legalising cannabis for personal use, while 46.1 per cent voted "yes".
The final result won't be announced until November 6, which will include 480,000-odd special votes.
But Little said about 70 per cent of those would have to have ticked "yes" to flip the result.
"The probability of that is so low as to be virtually non-existent."
Green MP Chloe Swarbrick was more hopeful, saying a big enough swing to make it a "yes" result was "plausible".
And she took a subtle dig at Prime Minister' Jacinda Ardern's refusal - until today - to reveal that she voted "yes".
"I'm in the Greens because I have the courage of my convictions," Swarbrick said.
Little was dismissive of whether Ardern's voting preference would have made a difference if she had revealed it before polling day, as she had done on the euthanasia issue.
The "no" cannabis result was welcomed by the Say Nope to Dope campaign and the National Party.
"It's good news for young people they are not going to be included in a social experiment. We can leave that to the Americans and Canadians," campaign spokesman Aaron Ironside said.
Auckland Councillor Efeso Collins, who backed the "no" campaign, said he supported decriminalisation of cannabis, while proponents of reform including the Drug Foundation also said the result was a mandate to decriminalise.
Swarbrick also pointed to the independent reviews of the justice system in recent years that have all called for the scrapping of criminal penalties for drug use.
But Little said it would be "irresponsible" for the Government to legalise or decriminalise cannabis, or undertake widespread drug law reform in the wake of the "no" vote.
"We have no other plans for drug law reform," he said. "The New Zealand voting public have made their decision. We have to respect that decision."
There would be a review of the drug law changes that came into effect in August last year, he said, which he called "as close as we get to effective decriminalisation".
Those changes, described at the time as a game-changer for making drug use a health issue, mean that police should only prosecute drug users if it's in the public interest. But since they were implemented, only about 10.7 per cent of people caught with drugs are being given a health referral.
That is based on police data, provided to the Herald under the Official Information Act, for police action against those facing drug use/possession as their most serious alleged offence.
Little said he expected people with drug possession as their most serious charge should "almost automatically" be given a health referral.
"That doesn't on the face of it appear to be what's happening. There's grounds to review what is happening to make sure it meets the expectations of the law change that was put in place.
"On the face of it, it [10.7 per cent] sounds low, but I'd want to dig under that and see what the detail is."
The law change has also seen police prosecutions for drug use fall while the use of police warnings has increased.
But it has not changed the inequitable application of the law against Māori, who are three times more likely to be arrested and convicted of a cannabis-related crime than non-Māori.
The police data shows a different application of the law to Māori and non-Māori for cannabis use, especially during the lockdown months this year.
Prosecutions jumped from 16 per cent of all police action against Māori cannabis users in March to 22 per cent in April (a 37.5 per cent rise), before undulating to 18 per cent in May and 23 per cent in June.
Over the same months, prosecutions fell from 18 per cent of all police action against non-Māori cannabis users in March to 16 per cent in April and 14 per cent in May, before rising slightly to 15 per cent in June.