Paula Bennett gets new drugs portfolio in National Party shake-up

The National Party has created a new portfolio for drugs, handing responsibility for the issue to Paula Bennett.

It's likely to become an increasingly high profile role, with a referendum on legalising the personal use of cannabis to take place at the next election, and a new medicinal scheme to roll out before then.

The decision to select National's deputy leader for the role likely points to the party ramping up to make cannabis legalisation a major point of debate.

National's reshuffle also sees the roles formerly held by Chris Finlayson reallocated, after he left Parliament at the end of 2018. Finance spokesperson Amy Adams takes up the role of shadow Attorney-General, Mark Mitchell becomes spokesperson for Pike River re-entry and Nick Smith takes up Crown-Maori relations.

Shane Reti, who drafted National's medicinal cannabis legislation, will take over Ms Bennett's tertiary education role.

Agnes Lohini, a new MP who will fill the seat vacated by Mr Finlayson, will pick up two associate spokesperson roles: small business and Pacific people.

Ms Bennett says the Government's approach to drug reform has been "confused, contradictory and ad hoc," saying "a measured, sensible and coordinated approach is needed".

She issued a series of warnings over the legalisation of cannabis on Tuesday morning, saying cannabis-infused ice creams and lollies have been sold overseas.

"When it comes to legalising marijuana, there are serious questions around drug driving, the effects of younger people accessing and using, youth mental health, and how this fits with our ambitions to be smoke free," Ms Bennett said.

Ms Bennett said rehabilitation needs to be available for those who need it but drug dealers should be "accountable".