David Seymour says holding referendum on cannabis legalisation was a 'tactical mistake'

Source: 1News

ACT leader David Seymour may have voted to legalise cannabis in New Zealand, however he reckons it was a "tactical mistake" on the part of the previous Labour-led coalition Government to take the issue to a referendum at the 2020 election.

After the counting of special votes, 50.7 per cent in New Zealanders voted against legalising, and 48.4 per cent were in favour. The referendum was non-binding.

"I think it was a tactical mistake to go for a referendum. The numbers weren't there according to the public opinion research and the loss was foreseeable," Seymour told TVNZ1's Breakfast this morning.

"I thought it did better than I expected actually, based on what the polling said and maybe that reflects that Chlöe [Swarbrick] ran a good campaign. I don't know what was on the voters' minds."

Instead, Seymour said Royal Commissioners should have been sent to Canada, where the drug is currently legal, to find out the facts, including around young people smoking and workplace use.

"I think if we'd had a really fulsome, official set of answers to those questions from a country that's like New Zealand, that's gone through it for five years, then I think it would have been easier to come to the right conclusion, whatever that may be.

"But unfortunately the issue now has been put off the agenda for quite some years and it's going to be a while before we have that discussion again." 

However, also on Breakfast, Greens MP Swarbrick said both she and Seymour had referendums "close to our hearts" that weren't put through to a vote by their own choice "because we were navigating through a political system".

Seymour's End of Life Choice Bill passed with 65.1 per cent in favour and 33.7 per cent against.

"But the choice I made was we were 20 or 30 points ahead in the polls and you were 10 points behind," Seymour told Swarbrick, adding he would have "taken different risks" based on polling.

"You, as well, know that we wouldn't have got that through Parliament had we not got New Zealand First to vote. New Zealand First's votes were contingent on that going to referendum," Swarbrick responded.

"None-the-less we navigated through the political system as it exists and we took this conversation, we took this policy, we took this issue, we took these laws to a place of public opinion."

Swarbrick said she was proud of that, saying politicians had sat on their hands for more than 40 years.

"Where to from here? We have a 2011 law commission review which says, effectively actually back then in 2011 you need to decriminalise substances in order to ensure that people have access to the help that they need. You also have two reports from Labour ministers in the last term of Government which say repeal and replace the Misuse of Drugs Act - we need to repeal the Misuse of Drugs Act."

Seymour added, "I've always given the view that basically having the police running around trying to find plants hasn't achieved much".

"We need to get onto the real drug which is P (methamphetamine) and too many people are buying P from their cannabis dealer. That is a real [reason] if for no other [reason} that I personally voted yes in the referendum."

Watch David Seymour and Chlöe Swarbrick's full Breakfast interview below.