Key Points:

Prime Minister John Key says he has no problem with a major drugs conference being sponsored by a leading advocate of cannabis decriminalisation, because his government will never legalise the drug.

The Government has found itself in the embarrassing position of jointly financing this week's $165,000 symposium on drug policy with billionaire George Soros' Open Society Institute.

Mr Key said he only knew of Mr Soros for his deeds as a currency speculator, rather than for his views on "weed".

"I've got to be honest and say I thought he was better known for blasting the pound out of the ERM [European Exchange Rate Mechanism] but I've now learnt of his desire apparently to have everyone smoking weed."

Mr Soros is known for financing drug reform campaigns.

Mr Key said he did not mind that Mr Soros' money was being used, because the Government "just simply does not support the decriminalisation of marijuana".

"I don't really care whether its George Soros or Mickey Mouse that supports the conference, I'm not going to be changing my position on that," Mr Key said.

The Ministry of Health has put up $30,000 and the symposium organiser, the largely Government-funded NZ Drug Foundation, is paying $50,000. The Society on Alcohol and Drug Dependence, a charitable trust, is
putting up $50,000.

The Drug Foundation withdrew an invitation for a Herald reporter to attend a dinner with delegates after yesterday's story detailing the funding of Mr Soros' Open Society Institute.