Cannabis referendum will be held during the 2020 election

Justice Minister Andrew Little has confirmed the New Zealand cannabis referendum will be held at the 2020 election, and it will be binding.

Previous research by Massey University shows 76 percent of people are in favour of legalising marijuana in some way.

Last month, the Drug Foundation brought in top economist Shamubeel Eaqub to analyse the potential benefit of legalising marijuana. His analysis showed a reform could net New Zealand $240 million in tax revenue.

National MP Simon Bridges says that the referendum is a "distraction" by Labour.

"I am cynical that you have a Government that wants to distract from the core issues of a general election, such as who is best to govern," he said.

When asked if Labour was actively trying to distract from the general election, he said: "It would be no surprise to me."

Mr Bridges also said that Labour has proposed not only a cannabis referendum, but "it sounds like we've got a euthanasia referendum and an electoral reform referendum and this Government, you'd have to say that they're trying to distract."

"[Labour] has already decided what it wants, it's already started to decriminalise. It's now okay to have bags of loose leaf cannabis out there; it's been saying to police that there is no issue with smoking [cannabis] and maybe harder drugs as well. And that makes me cynical."

Mr Bridges says that he would not vote to legalise marijuana, as he is "worried about the normalisation and the message it sends to New Zealanders. I've seen the debilitation in communities around New Zealand. And I worry significantly about the mental health implications."

Despite his concern, Mr Bridges has "never, ever" smoked marijuana himself.

More to come.