Simon Bridges won't smoke out cannabis Cabinet source

Simon Bridges, no stranger to leaks from his own party, is refusing to say who it is inside the Government leaking stuff to him.

The National Party on Sunday revealed it had acquired a Cabinet paper detailing the four possible forms next year's cannabis referendum could take.

They are:

  • a simple non-binding question of whether voters support legalising recreational cannabis
  • a non-binding question, accompanied by a policy framework document of how legalisation would work
  • a non-binding question, accompanied by draft legislation
  • a binding question, accompanied by legislation already passed that would become law if the public votes 'yes'.

"I think there's a bunch of reasons why we shouldn't legalise marijuana for recreational use," Simon Bridges told The AM Show on Monday.

"But if you're going to do it, surely you want a situation where New Zealanders have all the information and all the certainty - otherwise we might as well do a Brexit and try and work it all out afterwards."

Green MP Chloe Swarbrick, who strongly supports legalisation, said the paper Bridges got his hands on is "out of date".

"I can see the cynical politics of trying to whip up a frenzy on 'unanswered questions', but as we've invited them to work collaboratively multiple times, they'd quite simply have more answers if they'd taken it up," she tweeted on Sunday afternoon.

Bridges rejected her claim the paper was old.

"What would she know? She's not part of the Government," said Bridges, who is also not part of the Government. The Government is technically a coalition between Labour and NZ First with support from the Greens, and there are no Green Party members in Cabinet.

"I've got a 25-page Cabinet paper. It's definitely a Cabinet paper," Bridges continued. "It's definitely been through some part of the process, but I'm certain it's the Cabinet paper that's going to Cabinet today for discussion. It doesn't have a date, but it's very detailed, it's absolutely in line with what Andrew Little was saying on Friday... it's the Cabinet paper."

He wouldn't say how he got it.

"Like you in the media, I would never divulge my sources. We could play cat-and-mouse. I don't want to say anything that divulges my sources."

Cabinet is due to discuss the paper on Monday. Bridges said New Zealanders would be concerned with the "variety of products" listed in the paper, including "edible, drinks, patches, lotions".

Simon Bridges on The AM Show.
Simon Bridges on The AM Show. Photo credit: The AM Show

National deputy leader Paula Bennett criticised the paper's legal smoking age.

"The Cabinet Paper is clear that smoking marijuana when you're under the age of 25 is detrimental for development of the brain, and yet it recommends that the legal age should be 20," she said on Sunday. "The legal age seems to have been plucked out of thin air."

Pro-cannabis lobbyists on the other hand suggested the age was too high.

"Young people often have the least knowledge and experience, then they're preyed upon by organised crime," Chris Fowlie of NORML told Newshub.

He said any referendum would need to binding, or it would be a waste of time.

"There doesn't really seem much point in holding a referendum at an election when the Government could change... I think we all want to see a binding referendum, and there's still time to make that happen."

Cannabis. Photo credit: Getty

Bridges doubts the Government will be able to come up with legislation to vote on in the first place.

"The liberal left, they want it all. You've got Labour that doesn't know what they want. And of course you've got New Zealand First with the remnants of their vote they know are conservative. I think they're going to be the blockage in this."

National has not released the document itself, saying to do so would put its source at risk.