Sydney, Australia, Oct 1 (efe-epa).- During a fiery second leaders’ debate, New Zealand’s prime minister acknowledged having used cannabis in the past, touching on an upcoming referendum to be held as part of the Oct 17 general election.
In addition to voting for the next parliament, New Zealanders will also vote in two referendums on the legalization of recreational cannabis and the legalization of euthanasia.
In the one-and-a-half hour televised debate on Wednesday night in Auckland, center-left Labour Party leader and prime minister Jacinda Ardern and center-right National Party leader Judith Collins were asked by moderator Patrick Gower if they had ever used cannabis.
Ardern acknowledged that she had “a long time ago,” a response that drew applause from the audience.
Collins said that she had never tried cannabis and that she will vote against it in the referendum.
She has also called for Ardern to publicly declare her stance just as she did with the euthanasia referendum, which Ardern has indicated support for.
The prime minister refused to reveal her position on the cannabis referendum, saying that “whatever they decide, I will implement.”
“I made a clear decision that I want the public of New Zealand to decide this, and I want this not to be about politics,” Ardern said, adding that she would give her answer after the election.
Experts have pointed out that Ardern’s refusal to publicly state her stance on the issue is also her right as a private citizen when in the voting booth.
A survey by consulting firm Reid research published by Newshub this week revealed that 50.5 percent of those consulted oppose the bill on the legalization and control of recreational cannabis, while 37.9 percent are in favor, and 10.9 percent don’t know.
In the same survey, 61.6 percent said they supported the proposed euthanasia bill, while 25.5 percent said no, and 11.9 percent said they don’t know.
Ardern has been internationally praised for her management and compassion in the face of several crises – including the Christchurch terror attack, the deadly eruption of Whakaari/White Island volcano, and the COVID-19 pandemic – and is looking set to continue in the country’s top job as Labour leads the polls. EFE-EPA