NZ Election 2020: Winston Peters hits out at 'hypocrisy' of having Smokefree 2025 goal alongside cannabis referendum

Winston Peters has hit out at the "hypocrisy" of having a Smokefree 2025 goal alongside the cannabis referendum, but a Green MP says it's because of legal regulation that the smoke-free goal is progressing. 

The NZ First leader has not yet revealed his stance on legalising cannabis, believing it's up to New Zealanders to decide if the drug should be legalised for recreational use - but he has dropped a few hints about where he stands. 

"It's actually quite extraordinary we've got Smokefree by 2025 whilst we're having a marijuana or cannabis referendum," he told Magic Talk on Tuesday. 

"We're getting past $2 billion for cigarette and tobacco excise collection whilst you're claiming to go Smokefree by 2025. I don't know why and how long the people of this country can put up with such hypocrisy."

Green MP Chlöe Swarbrick says New Zealand is close to achieving Smokefree 2025 because of legal regulation, which is the intention of legalising recreational cannabis. 

"In the chaos of a black market, we've seen New Zealand's usage of cannabis remain high across decades, presently exceeding half a million New Zealanders using illegally," Swarbrick told Newshub. 

"If you want control over point of sale, support for cessation treatment and education, taxation ring-fenced for health interventions and restrictions for young people's access, you need to legalise and control cannabis. That's what we did with tobacco."

Swarbrick said there is a reason the same politician who championed the Smokefree Environments Act - former Prime Minister Helen Clark - is a staunch advocate for legalisation of cannabis. 

Green MP Chlöe Swarbrick.
Green MP Chlöe Swarbrick. Photo credit: Facebook

"Keeping cannabis in the hands of the black market is quite the opposite of everything Mr Peters seems to support in politics, so I hope he looks into the legislation."

At the time of the 2018 Census, the proportion of regular cigarette smokers aged 15 years and over decreased to 13.2 percent, down from 15.1 percent in 2013. In 1976 when the Census began, 35.6 percent of Kiwis smoked. 

At the 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 be regulated 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.
  • It's important to remember that the cannabis referendum is not binding meaning even if the majority of Kiwis vote for it, the law will still need to be passed in Parliament. 

    Peters said he has never expressed his view on legalising cannabis because he supports the referendum process, the same way NZ First pushed for a referendum on euthanasia. 

    "I've never expressed it because we were for a referendum and we think the people of this country should decide, not 120 MPs, and so me and my colleagues have tended to keep out of it whilst the public can decide for themselves."

    Peters said he would "very possibly" reveal his stance closer to the election. 

    "I know people talk about it being freedom of liberties and a rights issue, but the downside if you've seen it, and a number of us have, is so unbelievably disastrous," he said. 

    "I think if you're a politician, then why don't we just leave it to the people to decide, because in the end in a referendum or an election they just happen to be king."

    NZ First leader Winston Peters.
    NZ First leader Winston Peters. Photo credit: Getty

    Labour leader Jacinda Ardern also has not revealed her stance on legalising weed because she believes her role as Prime Minister is to facilitate the referendum without influencing the public's vote.  

    National Party leader Judith Collins is against recreational legalisation but is pro-medicinal cannabis, which is now legal in New Zealand and came into effect in April.  

    ACT leader David Seymour has welcomed the cannabis referendum and described it as an "important debate" when there is "growing demand from New Zealanders for a more liberal, health-focused approach to drugs".  

    A recent poll commissioned by medicinal cannabis company Helius Therapeutics and conducted by Horizon Research found support for legalising weed is neck-and-neck, with 49.5 percent for and 49.5 percent against.