Hard News by Russell Brown


From Zero: The Business of Drugs

In 1920, the American federal government amended its constitution to prohibit the production, importation, transportation and sale of alcoholic beverages. What happened subsequently, over the 13 years till repeal, became a case study in the economics of illicit drug markets.

That's the context in which I've looked at the business of drugs in New Zealand in 2016 for Episode 5 of From Zero: a supplier-driven trade which is seeing methamphetamine displace cannabis as the social drug of choice in some communities.

Or, as Northland lawyer Kelly Ellis puts it in the episode:

"Whangarei – the town where you can't buy a tinny but you can get an ounce of meth on tick."

I've also interviewed Detective Superintendent Virginia Le Bas, who heads the police's organised crime division, Detective Senior Sergeant Stan Brown of the Waitemata police, writer and researcher Matt Black, Weediquette host Krishna Andavolu, an Auckland pot dealer we'll call "Gavin" and the New Zealand Herald's Jared Savage, who has reported more on Auckland's organised drug crime in recent years than anyone else.

I hope what comes through in the episode is the the nature of the market and its economic drivers – and the fact that everything is how it is because of decisions we've made as society. And that includes the unnerving spectacle of methamphetamine supplanting weed.

You can listen to From Zero: The Business of Drugs on the RNZ website or subscribe to it in the iTunes Store.

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