Hard News by Russell Brown


Pills, not so many thrills

The legislation making BZP a class C1 illegal drug has been introduced and will likely be law by Christmas. This in itself is not very interesting. What is interesting is the likely shape of rules for the release of new recreational party drugs.

As this useful story on The Press pointed out on Monday:

Rules are also being drawn up to make party-pill manufacturers prove their products are safe to stop them rolling out new psychoactive substances to replace BZP.

Most manufacturers have already developed second-generation, non-BZP pills, but are not releasing them until the new rules are decided …

Party-pill manufacturers and retailers – part of an estimated $35 million industry – have hired public law specialist Chen Palmer to fight the ban.

Social Tonics Association chairman Matt Bowden said the group was working with Chen Palmer on its select committee submission and proposals to the Law Commission and Ministry of Health on a regulatory framework for new pills.

"When everybody is happy with a system, we'll roll forward with our new product."

The story also quotes a range of interested parties predicting that, in the interim, thwarted party pill users will turn to the products that are already illegal. Of course. I can't see a lot of demand for bootleg BZP -- which doesn't mean that unscrupulous suppliers won't try and slip it into pills that are meant to be something else.

But assuming that the new structure isn't completely unreasonable, we will see something quite novel: an approvals system for new, legal, recreational drugs. This makes more sense than the way in which BZP entered the market: it was legal because it wasn't illegal.

Meanwhile, panic in Limerick over BZP-based party pills in Ireland's head shops. It's a reasonable guess that they are New Zealand-made products.

Meanwhile, Pete Hodgson tries to bag John Key over his variety of residential addresses; maintaining that Key may have breached the Companies Act. It's petty in the same way that David Parker's supposed Companies Act scandal was petty (so the wingnuts who still occasionally scream blue murder about Parker should STFU), and it may not even be a breach at all. An address for service under the Companies Act doesn't have to be residential, does it? But it's interesting to see Labour now acting like an Opposition party and employing the same slow-drip attempt to erode its opponents' credibility as has worked so well for National.

Finally, I thought I might download John Pilger's new documentary, The War on Democracy, which looks as the filth and blood on US hands in Latin America. But after reading Pilger's screed on the Guardian website, I thought I wouldn't. Pilger is a fully signed-up member of the Hugo Chavez personality cult.

While any sensible person would have qualms about Chavez' recent actions, Pilger rages against his critics: " That he is the authentic product of a popular awakening is suppressed," by "the old Iran-Contra death squad gang" and their fellow travellers. Pilger simply smears any Venezuelans who do not support Chavez ("they remind me of white South Africans," he sneers).

Yes, Chavez has used oil revenues to transform the old plutocracy, opening up health and education services to people who never had them. The proprietors of Venezuela's (relatively) free press use their publications to attack him on a daily basis. By comparison with certain vile Central Asian dictators who have been given the full White House hospitality treatment in recent years, he is an absolute saint. His international clowning does not -- as so many wingnuts believe -- make him a security threat to the US.

On the other hand, Human Rights Watch faults him for attacking the independence of the country's judiciary, restricting freedom of expression, presiding over a police force reckoned to have conducted more than 5000 extrajudicial executions in five years, and persecuting members of human rights NGOs, among other things.

The 2006 World Press Freedom Review entry for Venezuela includes a list of journalists prosecuted for criminal defamation after they questioned government practices. A Venezuelan Pilger wouldn't be at large for long.

Pilger chooses to ignore or dismiss all of this. And, as the discussion under his Guardian piece indicates, he's not alone. You could certainly argue that on he has improved the welfare of his country's stricken masses (although this recent Economist story points out that income inequality has actually slightly increased under Chavez) and that his state is better than the exploitative one that preceded it, and better than many the US calls friend.

But surely even the Pilger crowd should be given pause by this statement this week from Chavez' former mentor over the leader's latest moves to entrench himself:

Earlier Tuesday, former Chavez mentor Luis Miquilena urged Venezuelans to reject the proposed constitutional changes, saying the president would use them to govern indefinitely.

Miquilena, who headed a popularly elected, pro-Chavez assembly that drafted Venezuela's existing constitution, called his former ally's new reform proposal "a constitutional fraud" aimed at giving him "perpetual power."

"The essential point of this reform is based on the idea of permitting Mr. Chavez to continue in power indefinitely," Miquilena told a news conference.

Miquilena, an 88-year-old former labor leader, once was commonly referred to as Chavez's closest adviser. But he quit his Cabinet in 2002 and has periodically criticized the president since then.

Apparently not.

MEANWHILE … Don't forget to RSVP for next week's Karajoz Great Blend events in Wellington and Auckland. I've just confirmed a little video preview that you will love

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