Jacinda Ardern tempers expectations of binding cannabis referendum

Jacinda Ardern is tempering expectations of a binding cannabis referendum, as the National Party alleges the upcoming vote will be on draft legislation.

Ardern told The AM Show she thinks New Zealand should decide, but it's going to be up to whatever Parliament forms in 2020 to make the final call.

"I'm going to leave the details to the Minister of Justice who's going to be making an announcement today. Keeping in mind though that of course our Parliament is always sovereign.

"That of course means that you can go as far as you can with commitments but ultimately, every new Parliament is able to dictate what it does."

The National Party says the upcoming cannabis referendum will not be binding, citing a leaked cabinet paper.

National drug reform spokesperson Paula Bennett said the public will be voting on draft legislation that had not been through the select committee process.

"If they voted yes on that draft legislation, then what happens? The draft legislation goes to a select committee and select committee may want to improve it because they've heard from experts.

"However the public have voted yes on the draft and so can they? That's why it's not binding and why it hasn't got that sort of depth to it that it should have."

Ardern wouldn't share her own feelings on the legislation, saying she wanted to avoid "personalising" the issue.

"Everyone deals with these issues already, and ultimately I don't want to be the arbiter, personally, for an issue that there are lots of arguments both sides."

Bennett was more than happy to share her opinion though and said the referendum needs to be much stronger.

"There's a whole lot of stuff behind this that is really complex and could change the social fabric of New Zealand. I just think it deserves something far more robust."

New Zealand will go to the polls on legalising cannabis for personal use at the 2020 election. The referendum was agreed to as part of Labour's confidence and supply agreement with the Green Party.