Jacinda Ardern, Duncan Garner clash over cannabis legalisation stance

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has clashed with The AM Show host Duncan Garner after refusing to reveal how she will vote on the question of recreational cannabis legalisation.

In May, the Government announced that New Zealanders will vote in a referendum on legislation to legalise recreational cannabis at the 2020 election.

A simple yes or no question will be presented on the basis of draft legislation that includes a minimum age of 20, regulations and commercial supply controls, limited home-growing options, and a public education programme.

But a Newshub-Reid Research poll revealed on Monday that 48 percent of people disagree with legalisation, while 41.7 percent want it legal.

Ardern wouldn't reveal her position on Tuesday when pushed on it by Garner, saying she wanted to ensure the public was informed and felt she needed to be impartial in presenting that information.

"My vote, ultimately, is only as good as my neighbour's vote. I don't want to be in a position of persuading people either way. I want them to decide for themselves, and I want them to have the information," she told The AM Show.

"For me to have that role, I do think I need to have a level of impartiality in sharing that information and pulling it together."

Two issues she was weighing up the level of access young people have to cannabis and if people should be criminalised for having it.

"I grew up in a town where I saw young people easily access cannabis, and I saw the impact it had on their education, so that worries me.

"At the same time, I don't think people should be criminalised and imprisoned."

But that didn't impress Garner, who said she was the Prime Minister and needed to express her view to the public.

"You are sitting on the fence publicly... you are going to end up voting. You know now how you are going to end up voting," he said.

Jacinda Ardern, Duncan Garner clash over cannabis legalisation stance
Photo credit: The AM Show.

However, Ardern said she was still working through the information and wanted to ensure the referendum process was correct - something Garner called a "cop out".

As any vote in Parliament on the legalisation would likely be a conscience vote, Ardern didn't want to look to be reflecting the position of the Labour Party.

"If I stand up as the leader of the Labour Party and give a position, do you honestly believe that people will think that that is therefore not the position of the Labour party."

But again, Garner demanded an answer.

"Why are you so shy in coming forward with your position? Is it because it is so contentious that you are not sure how it will be taken?

"What are you scared of? Why are you running scared of your position publicly being known? Come on."

Ardern denied she was running scared, and that as Prime Minister, "there are very few things in policy debates that you become afraid of.

"You just have to debate everything."

Jacinda Ardern, Duncan Garner clash over cannabis legalisation stance
Photo credit: Getty

The referendum is a commitment in the Labour Party's confidence and supply agreement with the Green Party.

The Newshub-Reid Research Poll found Green Party voters were most likely to vote yes to legalisation, while National were most likely to vote no.

The poll found 76.9 percent of Green Party supporters were in favour, while just 14.5 percent opposed.

It's a stark contrast to just 25.3 percent of National supporters who want it legalised, while 67.6 percent were opposed.

The majority of Labour supporters want recreational cannabis legalised, with 50.4 percent in favour and 37.9 percent opposed.

That compares to 44.5 percent of New Zealand First supporters in favour, while 45.3 percent were opposed.