Helen Clark hits out at 'shock jock' Mike Hosking over cannabis views

Former Prime Minister Helen Clark has urged Kiwis to ignore 'shock jocks' when they come to decide whether to vote in favour of cannabis legalisation.

Clark wants the upcoming referendum to pass, ending the prohibition on the popular drug so Kiwis don't have to get it from tinny houses. 

But she's run into opposition from a number conservative commentators and broadcasters, notably Newstalk ZB's Mike Hosking, who regularly uses his platform to urge listeners to vote 'no' in September.

"If the shock jocks... had the power of public opinion that they'd like to think they have, you wouldn't be seeing New Zealanders about to return Jacinda Ardern as Prime Minister," Clark told filmmaker Stephen McDowell in a lengthy, wide-ranging interview posted on his Instagram channel on Sunday.

"People are rushing around the house, pouting the cornflakes on the table for the kids, the rant's going on in the background... How much influence does it really have, is what I'm asking? I'd say to people there are more informative channels." 

Many of those now calling for prohibition to stay, she noted, are Boomers like her who went to university in the 1960s and '70s when cannabis use on campus was "very widespread".

"It's kind of like saying do as I say, not do as I do."

Clark said while she'd rather young people didn't smoke it, it's better for you than alcohol or tobacco.

"I've been around long enough to know that when you say to young people, 'don't do it', they do it. That's the nature of youth... People are going to use this stuff."

If the country votes to legalise in September, the proposed legislation will still have to be passed by Parliament. In this way it differs to the proposed legislation which would legalise assisted dying - that's already been passed, provided the country votes yes. 

"It's not like this is some wild, crazy thing to do," said Clark. "A lot of countries have worked out - like our Justice minister Andrew Little and others have worked out - that trying to prohibit the use of something up to 80 percent of New Zealanders will try in their lifetimes is pretty ridiculous. That's probably as many, or even more, than will try a glass of wine in their lifetimes. 

"So it's better to deal with this on its merits, on the evidence, recognise that as a drug it's immensely less dangerous to your health than tobacco smoking is, and less dangerous to both your health and to society than alcohol is, and put some rules around it... Legalise and regulate. Put rules around it, take it out of the black market and deal with the responsibility as a state."

She said the reason it became illegal in the first place, while tobacco and alcohol didn't, was because the latter were in widespread use in "powerful Western societies", while cannabis was more popular in other parts of the world. 

"It was easy for the powerful western societies to say ' just ignore those, they're widespread - but cannabis go on the list of everything else as a bad thing to do'. It's ridiculous... It's been used by humans forever and a day, but it wasn't used in an upfront way in Western society." 

She went on to tell McDowell there wa a "racial discrimination aspect to it", including here in New Zealand, with the powerful in society - usually white - using it as a way to suppress minorities when it became unacceptable or illegal to do so in more overt ways.

The referendum is being held alongside this year's general election. The full interview can be viewed on McDowell's Instagram page, where he goes by the handle 'thebuzzykiwi'.