Cannabis referendum: Shane Jones voting 'no' because the Greens are voting 'yes'

Shane Jones says part of the reason he's voting against legalising cannabis is because the Greens are voting for it. 

The New Zealand First MP is struggling for his political survival, with his party polling well below the 5 percent threshold and his own support well below those of his National and Labour rivals in the Northland seat. 

National's Matt King polled 46 percent in a recent Colmar Brunton poll, and Labour's Willow-Jean Prime 31 percent - well ahead of Jones' 15 percent. 

All three sat down for a group interview with Newshub Nation's Simon Shepherd, where inevitably the topic of cannabis came up. Whether to legalise recreational use of the popular drug or not will be asked in a referendum being held alongside this year's general election in October. 

Jones said he doesn't want to "normalise" cannabis, despite New Zealand ranking as one of the world's top users of the drug.

"I was born and bred in and around Kaitaia, so I have seen the effect on whanau. But I suspect that people 15 years, 20 years younger than me in the north are going to vote to have a decriminalisation, legalisation. 

"But part of the reason why I will not be supporting it is it was promoted by the Greens, and I do not agree with much of anything that the Greens are involved in."

Elsewhere in the chat, Jones said "hopefully they'll disappear" - even if that means Labour getting to govern alone, with leader Jacinda Ardern ruling out giving Jones the nod in Northland to better NZ First's chances of making it back into Parliament.

"I thoroughly understand where the Prime Minister is coming from. They want Labour to govern by themselves - the first time ever that a party under MMP will have exclusive power and control over the executive. I think there's a host of people in Labour who find Greens more agreeable than myself, which is why I'm going to do everything I can to ensure the Greens don't survive."

Host Shephard ended up having to remind Jones the interview wasn't "just a platform for you to campaign against the Greens". 

Back to cannabis, Jones said it didn't take him long to figure out his position.

"Obviously, medical cannabis is now a legal reality. But I have already had people approach me whether I would champion a cannabis industry. I have to be up front. I do not overthink these things, mate. I do not find them complicated. I agree or I do not agree, and I do not agree."

Prime said she had "angst" over whether to legalise or not.

"I have had close family members go to prison. Did prison fix them? Did they come out and stop smoking and dealing marijuana? No, they did not. So, I know that the system and the way that we have treated it does not work."

Willow-Jean Prime.
Willow-Jean Prime. Photo credit: Newshub Nation

She said her own family members turned to cannabis to cover pain and trauma.

"Do we ever deal with the health side of it? No, we do not. And so, I am supporting it, even though it was a hard decision, because I have seen that firsthand in my own household - I am supporting it because I do not believe they are treating it as a crime has solved the issues and that we need to treat it as a health issue."

She said Northland had soil that was suited to growing cannabis, and could be an employment boon for the struggling region.

"The important thing is that this legislation is about the control of it, the regulation of it. And so, with those proper controls and regulations in place, it would be safe to do that and we could see the benefits of it. Instead, what we have is a black market for it, and we are not seeing the benefits of that for all of our region."

Matt King.
Matt King. Photo credit: Newshub Nation

King said he would vote against it "because I think it sends the message to young people that it's OK, and I don't I don't want that to happen 'cause a young brain is well-affected by the cannabis".

"All it does is, legalising or decriminalising it makes the young people, 'It's OK.' And I do not think it is OK."