National Party would 'respect' cannabis referendum - Simon Bridges

The AM Show 19/06/2019

The National Party will "respect" the results of the cannabis referendum if it wins the next election, but they may be hard to interpret, leader Simon Bridges says.

Bridges told The AM Show he's got a lot of unanswered questions about the referendum and how it will work.

Without knowing exactly what regime would be in place, he said it would be hard to know what people want if he's in charge of passing the law.

I respect the will of New Zealanders in all things where they've had a vote.

"But I do come back to just to the difficulty of knowing what that means and if we put a law in what would that say."

The Labour Party committed to holding a referendum on the personal use of cannabis at the 2020 election as part of its confidence and supply agreement with the Green Party.

The Government will have drafted legislation before the vote, which will be passed if the majority vote in favour of legalising recreational cannabis.

It will include a minimum age of 20 to use and purchase cannabis, regulation and commercial supply controls, limited home-growing options, a public education programme and stakeholder engagement.

Simon Bridges. Photo credit: The AM Show

Justice Minister Andrew Little said at the time the referendum plan was announced there would be a clear path forward.

"There will be a clear choice for New Zealanders in a referendum at the 2020 General Election. Cabinet has agreed there will be a simple Yes/No question on the basis of a draft piece of legislation."

But Bridges still has questions.

"Whether it's the deaths and serious injuries on our roads, whether it's mental health, whether it's the failure to get 'neffs' off the couch, whether it's the tax regime and the advertising regime, turning this into a fully fledged commercial thing.

There's so many unanswered questions that I would think Kiwis want answers to before we get to that.

Green Party MP Chloe Swarbrick, who is advocating for legalisation as her party's drugs spokesperson, told The AM Show in February she doesn't want an overly commercial model.

"We want to see a sensible model that minimises harm - we want to educate, we want to regulate to ensure that this isn't seen as advertised, cool or promoted to kids - and we want to ensure the tax revenue... is invested back into mental health services."

The AM Show / Newshub reporter Katie Fitzgerald