A cannabis referendum forum in Napier has ended just the way one of the organisers wanted.

There were five speakers at the Environment, Justice and Peace Network's Sunday-afternoon forum, with about 70 people spaced out in an EIT theatre according to the Covid-19 alert level 2 rules, and another theatre set up to take a live feed if needed.

But convener Ruth Smithies said not even she had any idea which way most of the panel would vote when the referendum is held in with the general election next month.

The referendum, which ends on October 17, will ask voters "Yes" or "No" on whether they support the Cannabis Legislation and Control Bill, which sets out a way for the Government to regulate and control recreational cannabis.

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Former Commissioner for Children Dr Russell Wills was one of five speakers at the Environment, Justice and Peace Network cannabis legalisation bill referendum forum on Sunday. Photo / Paul Taylor
Former Commissioner for Children Dr Russell Wills was one of five speakers at the Environment, Justice and Peace Network cannabis legalisation bill referendum forum on Sunday. Photo / Paul Taylor

A majority in favour would see the bill sent back to Parliament, for likely legalisation of aspects of recreational supply and use of cannabis for people aged 20 years or over.

Smithies reiterated the purpose for staging the forum was to better inform voters, not to tell them which way to vote, just as will also be the case on September 27 when EJP stages a Meet the Candidates forum for the public to hear candidates seeking the Napier seat at the election.

Paediatrician and former Commissioner for Children Dr Russell Wills and Crown solicitor Cam Stuart were among the speakers at Sunday's forum, joined by Hastings District councillor Henare O'Keefe, Te Aute College principal Shane Hiha, and addiction counsellor and psychotherapist Otto Mengedoht.

To keep to the plan, speakers had a regulated time to address the forum, and questions from the audience had to be written and directed through the chair, to avoid lengthy political statements being made.

Smithies said although it had been hoped using the EIT as a venue might attract some younger people associated with the faculty, there were few under-30s and many of the audience appeared to be middle-aged.