Cannabis referendum: Helen Clark part of 60-strong group kicking off 'yes' vote campaign

Former Prime Minister Helen Clark is hitting the streets on Monday to front a campaign in support of a 'yes' vote in the upcoming cannabis referendum.

As part of a nationwide poster and billboard campaign called 'We Do', 60 Kiwi advocates are expressing their support for the Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill.

We Do campaign spokesperson Russell Brown says the campaigners want to show the public it's "okay to vote 'yes'".

"There has been so much misinformation around the referendum that we felt it would be useful to show people that folks like them have looked at the arguments and are voting for a more sensible and humane law around cannabis."

The campaign includes recognisable names such as Clark, former Auckland City Mission CEO Dame Diane Robertson and tech entrepreneur Ray Noonan. But it also shows less familiar faces such as "mums, dads, young and old" expressing their support.

"I think it's important to emphasise that this isn't about whether you use cannabis or not," Brown said.

"Scott, a middle-aged father, doesn't use cannabis, but he came to us because he knows that if his teenagers do, their first contact will be with a delivery service run by a gang affiliate.

"On the other hand, there's Paul, a sober alcoholic who has been 12 years without a drink but gets by with a little cannabis in the evenings. Everyone turned out to have a different personal reason."

Dame Diane said she has seen the harm criminalising the use of cannabis has had.

"During the HIV and AIDS epidemic I saw people using cannabis for pain relief being prosecuted," she said.

"Legalising will put clear boundaries about how and where it can be used, enable misuse to become a health issue and provide the opportunity for more accessible medical use and the development of more health products."

Noonan, who is the CEO of Cogent, said the cannabis referendum is the chance for change.

"The criminalising of such a large number of New Zealanders and the severe impact that this has on their lives is appalling. I believe that this is the biggest opportunity for change since homosexual law reform in the 80s."

The proposed bill outlines a way for a future government to control and regulate cannabis, covering how Kiwis can produce, supply or consume marijuana. Its main purpose is to reduce cannabis-related harm to individuals, families, whānau and communities.

The bill intends to restrict young people's access to cannabis, eliminate the illegal supply of cannabis and ensure only New Zealanders aged 20 and over are able to possess or consume the drug in limited circumstances. It would also control the production and supply of cannabis, including controlling the potency and contents of licensed cannabis and cannabis products.

While this referendum is non-binding, the incumbent Government is expected to legalise recreational use of cannabis if reelected and the vote passes. National has said it may shelve the bill if the select committee advises against passing it.

Earlier this month, a poll commissioned by medicinal cannabis company Helius Therapeutics and conducted by Horizon Research found the referendum race is neck-and-neck, with 49.5 percent for and 49.5 percent against the proposed bill.

In March, a Research New Zealand poll found 43 percent were in favour of legalising cannabis and 33 percent opposed it -  yet by August, support for the law change had slid to 39 percent, while opposition to its legalisation has surged to 46 percent.