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Jacinda Ardern admits to past cannabis use during N.Z. election debate

Jacinda Ardern admits to past cannabis use during N.Z. election debate
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In this March 21, 2020, file photo, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern holds up a card showing a new alert system for COVID-19 in Wellington, New Zealand. (AP / Nick Perry, File)

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TORONTO -- During a debate with her rival in the New Zealand election campaign, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern admitted to smoking cannabis.

When she was pressed by the moderator of the live national election debate on Wednesday, the Labour Party leader said she had tried marijuana "a long time ago" in her youth.

Ardern had previously deferred on the topic, saying "I was once a Mormon and then I wasn t, that s how I ll put that."

Cannabis is currently illegal in New Zealand, but the country will vote on a long-awaited Cannabis Referendum next month. The country already allows the use of medical marijuana, with a doctor s prescription.

Ardern said she will only reveal which way she votes on the cannabis referendum after the Oct. 17 election.

"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," she said during the debate.

Ardern s opponent, Conservative party leader Judith Collins, has said that she and all of her caucus have committed to vote against the legalization of cannabis.

Wednesdays event was the second of four national debates leading up to the New Zealand election. Ardern is seen as likely to win a second term following her administration s success at battling the coronavirus pandemic.
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