Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has rejected a challenge from National leader Judith Collins to reveal her stance on recreational cannabis, saying it's not her job to influence votes.
Collins challenged Ardern in a tweet on Tuesday to say if she is voting in favour of legalising recreational cannabis at the upcoming referendum. She said the National Party supports medical cannabis but not recreational.
"Today, I have challenged the Labour Leader to tell NZ if she is voting to legalise the recreational use and sale of Marijuana. National supports medicinal cannabis but not recreational use and sale. Can she let New Zealand know?"
The Prime Minister refused to reveal her stance on the drug because she believes her role as Prime Minister is to facilitate the referendum without influencing the public's vote.
"Right from the beginning when we formed Government, we committed to a referendum, and since that very moment I've seen my job as facilitating that - making sure that we had something for people to vote on, making sure that people had the right information to make their own decision," Ardern said on Tuesday.
"My vote I see as good as my neighbour's vote and equal to theirs and I do want to be able to maintain the position that should people vote in favour or opposed, that I can then be seen to objectively facilitate that happening."
The Government announced in May 2019 that New Zealanders would vote on legislation to legalise recreational cannabis at the 2020 election and at the time Ardern would not reveal if she had tried it before - but she offered a clue.
"I was raised Mormon and then I was not Mormon - I let other people determine what that means."
Ardern said on Tuesday her reluctance to reveal her views on the drug is not about maintaining the privacy of her personal feelings towards it.
"I don't see it as privacy at all. I see it more as a role to facilitate a debate that's for the public and we designed it that way right from the very beginning," she said.
"The Labour Party does not have a policy on it. We do not have a position on this. Individual members will vote how they choose and so will MPs. I see my job as facilitating it."
Kiwis will be voting on two referendums at the election - one on legalising recreational cannabis and one on euthanasia. But the euthanasia referendum wasn't always going to be a vote - it only became one after New Zealand First insisted.
The Prime Minister said that's why she has been open about her support for the End of Life Choice Bill, ACT leader David Seymour's euthanasia legislation that would become law if Kiwis vote in favour of it.
"I see euthanasia as different - that never went to Parliament as a referendum in the first place. It was designed as something for parliamentarians to vote on and I've been very open on my position," Ardern said. "This, though, has been designed for the public to decide."
Ardern was vocal about her support for the Red Peak flag design ahead of the referendum on changing New Zealand's national flag in 2015. But she said that was different because she wasn't leading the referendum that time.
"I was obviously an MP voting the same way as anyone else. It wasn't my referendum that I was in charge of facilitating for the rest of the public," she said.
"I take this referendum really seriously. It's a big decision for New Zealanders and I don't see my job as to influence people's vote - it's their decision. But I do want them to be able to trust the information that's been put out by the Government on it, to see it as being objective."
In this year's general election, Kiwis will be asked if they support the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill, legislation developed to help give an idea of how legalised recreational cannabis would work in New Zealand.
If you are 20 or over you could:
- Buy up to 14 grams per day from licensed outlets.
- Enter licensed premises where cannabis is sold or consumed.
- Consume cannabis on private property or at licensed premises.
- Grow up to two plants, with a maximum of four plants per household.
- Share up to 14 grams of cannabis with another person aged 20 or over.