Hard News by Russell Brown

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High Times

Just for a change, a local newspaper has printed a shock-horror story about drugs that turns out to be an urban myth. On Saturday, the Waikato Times ran a story under the headline 'Drug dealers targeting children with P-laced milkshakes'.

It reported a claim made by "Hawaiian drug expert" Gary Shimabukoro in a briefing to New Zealand police that "in a disturbing new trend targeting young people", methamphetamine was being "made into milkshakes to give out a 'steady buzz'."

But as Michael Earley discovered through a few minutes' googling, the story is almost certainly an urban myth; an extension of a similar myth about "flavoured methamphetamine". Michael subsequently discovered a number of other instances where Mr Shimabukoro has been (metaphorically speaking) smoking crack.

I really think there is enough real harm associated with P use to render these silly fictions unnecessary.

Meanwhile, just as Gordon Brown's government in Britain is considering reversing the 2004 reclassification of cannabis in response to a wave of anecdotal horror stories, a Home Office study reveals that:

Cannabis use among young people has fallen significantly since its controversial reclassification in 2004, according to the latest British Crime Survey figures published today.

The Home Office figures showed the proportion of 16 to 24-year-olds who had used cannabis in the past year fell from 25% when the change in the law was introduced to 21% in 2006/07 - still about 1.3 million users… the latest figures suggested that the downward trend in cannabis consumption since 1998 - when 28% of 16 to 24-year-olds reported using the drug - had accelerated.

Oddly enough, more cannabis is being seized in the street; it's just that the people it's seized from generally aren't subject to arrest.

The Guardian's home affairs editor, Alan Travis, noted that the study also doesn't bear out the alarming stories (many of them in The Independent, which has gone from panicking about GE to panicking about pot) about terrifying new "super skunk" strains flooding the market.

Likely to be embarrassed by the news: the Forensic Science Service chappie (the equivalent of our ESR) whose wild guess this month that 75% of cannabis seizures were the dreaded skunk was widely reported as fact. And the Scottish "expert" who claimed yesterday that reclassification of cannabis had sent drug use spiraling out of control.

In fact, although the use of cocaine continues to rise (2.6% of adults said they had used it in the past year), the proportion of Britons using illegal drugs was the lowest it had been since the study began.

Meanwhile, the Dutch have

banned the sale of magic mushrooms in so-called "smart shops", in a policy change driven largely by the death of Gaelle Caroff, a 17 year-old French schoolgirl thought to have eaten shrooms before she jumped of a building (although she also appears to have had psychological problems).

A smart shop spokesman noted that her case and a handful of others (involving disturbances rather than deaths) that have come to light also involved alcohol. Indeed, corpses are pulled out of Amsterdam's canals at a rate of about one a week; almost all of them those of pissed people who have fallen in and drowned. But that's … different.

Arnold Schwarzenegger denies using drugs back in the day -- on the basis that marijuana's not drugs, it's a leaf.

And, finally, it's ironic that Amy Winehouse's bust in Norway was for marijuana: if the challenges facing her include bulimia, using pot is quite probably a good thing. And her dad has revealed what tipped into hard drug use: marriage. Clearly, the authorities should look at banning that.

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