Regional Economic Minister Shane Jones has appeared to let his personal views on marijuana get in the way of helping to fund a start-up Kiwi medicinal cannabis company.
Speaking to Lisa Owen on Newshub Nation, Mr Jones was asked if he would spend some of the $3 billion he has to help fund the regions on Ruatoria-based medicinal cannabis start-up Hikurangi Cannabis, which has signed a conditional $160 million deal to export medicinal cannabis to the United States.
"I'm hard-line on drugs, so it'll be a bloody big stretch for me to start popularizing cannabis, if medicinal cannabis, and legally, can go through the hoops there's no guarantee, however, that I personally am going to commit this fund to a cannabis company - and anyone who's saying that is smoking the stuff."
Mr Jones was also questioned if he was letting his personal views get in the way of a valid business project that could create jobs.
"Because if that's the criteria, jobs and economic returns, don't you have to put that to one side?" Owen asked.
"No, I think what New Zealanders look for in Maori politicians like myself is to say it as it is, I don't pretend to have views about how cannabis has wrecked my own society, and now it's P, I'm not going to back away from those views," Mr Jones said.
Hikurangi Cannabis managing director Manu Caddie told Newshub Nation that he would very much like to have a slice of Mr Jones' $3b fund to help regional development.
"We're looking at raising 6 million in the next six weeks to build processing facilities and glass houses," he said.
"For every dollar we take from an investor who wants a stake in things there's a little bit less control that the community might have.
"If we're able to have the Government co-fund some of that than it enables some of the value to stay in the community."
Mr Jones was also asked if he was addressing the issue with an open mind.
"No, it sounds like a senior Maori politician who's seen the wreckage that dope has wreaked throughout the north and east," he said.
Mr Caddie told Newshub Nation that he understood Mr Jones' views given the history of cannabis abuse in New Zealand.
"I think the East Coast knows cannabis better than any other part of the country, but this is a different product, this is something that is going to be proven safe, but something that is strictly controlled, that's the point of the new legislation," he said.
He also suggested that medicinal cannabis could be accessed very cheaply by New Zealanders who need, when the current law permitting its use eventually changes.
"While we want to make money and create jobs on the one hand, we want to make sure it's affordable for New Zealanders, and what we're saying is this kind of opportunity to export is going to allow us to subsidise the product, we could just about give it away in New Zealand because we're earning such revenues from overseas."
Mr Jones wants the Government to carefully consider any new legislation regarding medicinal cannabis, which he calls "electric puha."
"I think it's a big policy decision that the Government's got to get its head around, we are going through the legislation, it's nowhere as liberal as the Greens wanted, but it's better," he said.
"I come from an area that's been blighted by the excesses of drug use, and I'm not going to back down from that."
Mr Caddie believes the Regional Economic Minister might yet be swayed once he views what he believes is a compelling business case.
"I think Shane's got his experiences in his communities and he's entitled to have his personal opinion on these matters.
"As he said he hasn't seen a business case, and it's our job to present him with a compelling proposition and we're working hard on that."