Jacinda Ardern defends refusal to say how she voted on cannabis until results came out

Jacinda Ardern is defending her refusal to say she voted 'yes' to legalise recreational cannabis in the referendum until the results came out, saying she'd been weighing up the pros and cons of legalisation. 

The Prime Minster said she was "not wanting to see people imprisoned for personal possession" but at the same time "always had concerns about young people's access" to cannabis. 

"I weighed those issues up and I voted in favour," she said on Saturday. "However, I wanted every New Zealander to weigh those issues up independently of my view."

Ardern said she didn't want to influence voters - but then said she wouldn't have. 

"No, I don't actually," Ardern said, when asked if she thought revealing her 'yes' vote could have helped the campaign to legalise cannabis. "I think ultimately New Zealanders made up their own mind."

Ardern's secrecy was at odds with the Greens' outspoken advocacy to legalise cannabis. 

It comes as Labour and Greens have finally thrashed out a post-election deal - a cooperation agreement. It's lower level than a coalition or confidence and supply arrangement but would land the Greens co-leaders ministerial roles each. 

Ardern reminded the Greens who is boss as she spoke about the deal on Saturday. 

"Yes, while there will be areas that we will work together and cooperate, I also will be making sure that we use the skills in our own caucus and that we pursue them with vigour."

The deal is not quite the confidence and supply agreement of last term. This one is being called a cooperation deal - it keeps the Greens close but not too close. 

Ardern said she did not consider a coalition agreement for the Greens. 

"No. That was not in my mind at all."

As Newshub revealed last week, a coalition deal like New Zealand First had with Labour was off the table, and Greens co-leader James Shaw has been offered his climate portfolio again. On top of that, he'd get associate environment.

Greens co-leader Marama Davidson gets associate housing focusing on homelessness and a brand new portfolio, Minister for the Prevention of Family and Sexual Violence.

"Continuity on addressing this issue of national shame is in the front of my mind," Ardern said, explaining the rationale behind the new portfolio. "This is an area that should be a ministerial portfolio in its own right."

Neither Shaw nor Davidson would be in Cabinet and former Green ministers Julie-Anne Genter and Eugenie Sage get zilch. The Greens simply don't have the leverage - Labour won an outright majority. 

The other major difference with this Government is the nixing of New Zealand First. The Greens were often boxed out by them last term, prompting Shaw to lash out. 

Shaw once described them as "extremely difficult" and "quite chaotic".

"There is no doubt that MMP arrangements can cause complications," Ardern said. "It can cause policy to be slowed."

Green Party members are mulling over the deal. A Zoom call between the leadership and delegates got underway on Saturday afternoon. If they all agree it's a good deal, it should be signed on Sunday morning.

What Labour gets out of this is Green agreement on big ticket matters of confidence and supply - like the Budget - so bolstering its vote. But again, it doesn't need them, it has the numbers, so it's more about the perception of consensus. 

And it's not the only deal Labour is hoping to strike - Ardern wants to work across the aisles with all parties on reviewing MMP, a possible four year parliamentary term and political donation laws. 

On Monday, Ardern will announce her Labour Party Cabinet irrespective of whether the Greens sign up or not.