Hard News by Russell Brown


The conversation they want to have

His New Zealand hosts will have had mixed feelings about Dana Beal's interview with Kim Hill on Saturday. On one hand, his appearance started the conversation they want to have about a controversial addiction therapy: iobgaine treatment.

On the other hand, the longtime yippie activist seemed in perpetual danger of taking a wrong turn, and eventually did, with the story of how he was arrested last year with $150,000 in cash, on suspicion of money-laundering. Beal could certainly have handled the telling of the tale better, given that his only consequent conviction was for a possession of a tiny quantity of marijuana. The effect was not such as to benefit any attempt to get up a trial of ibogaine therapy in New Zealand.

Which is a shame, because there is certainly some evidence that the trance-inducing drug ibogaine, a derivative of African shrubs of the Tabernanthe genus, actually can relieve severe addiction to the likes of methamphetamine and heroin, primarily through memory retrieval in the trance state and certain physiological effects. According to Wikipedia, it is already used in clinics in 12 countries.

This isn't an unprecedented line of inquiry: until LSD was made illegal in the 1960s, it had shown real promise in the treatment of chronic alcoholism. (The research was also undermined when another, more sceptical research group thought it would be a good idea to tie up and blindfold subjects before giving them the LSD. I'm guessing this didn't work out so well.) The 1960s research was recently re-examined.

I am wondering why the Herald's reporter thought it was a good idea to consult non-doctor Mike Sabin on his thoughts about ibogaine. There may be some risks in the treatment; the point would be whether those risks were really greater than those of continued methamphetamine addiction.

Anyway, it helped make for a somewhat unusual Saturday Morning with Kim Hill, up to and including a rather odd Playing Favourites with Graham Reid, in which Kim seemed insufficiently interested in Graham's new book, and overly interested in pursuing a discussion about whether Zak Starkey is a better drummer than Ringo.

The Erowid vault on ibogaine contains a great deal more information.


At the other end of the drug debate, the former president of Brazil, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, weighed in at the weekend on Latin America's developing and radical rejection of the war on drugs: decriminalising possession of small quantities of illicit drugs to focus on curbing supply.

It's controversial, especially in the US, but the conventional war is out of control in the region. The Mexican drug war update logged 149 violent deaths last week, making a total of 4736 for the year. Mexico's government, while continuing its frightening war with organised crime, has also ceased prosecuting people caught with small quantities of drugs.

And finally, on this topic, the (AFAIK) unnamed Amsterdam citizen who's been calling Fox News' Bill O'Reilly on his fact-free pronouncements about the city has another video. It's quite good:


Unless you count the amazing organic raw chocolate and whatever the people from Uncensored were on, there were no drugs at yesterday's inaugural Grey Lynn Farmers Market, but, blessed with a brilliant morning, it still did a reasonable impression of the New Suburban Woodstock. The crowds came from everywhere, and the venue barely coped. It wasn't perfect – and there aren't yet many real backyard veges for sale – but it was a great start.

The organisers originally wanted to stage the market at Grey Lynn Primary School, but consent issues got in the way and they downsized to the community centre. I hope they have the capacity sorted out by summer, because I think it's clear this is going to be a very popular market.

Personally, I was delighted to see the young Chinese woman who sells bags of fresh rocket at La Cigale was there. If she could convince the young woman who makes fresh pita breads, humus and falafel for sale to follow her west, I'd be very grateful.

Update: In recognition of comments in this discussion for this post about people bringing their children to what's meant to be a serious market, here is a picture of a horde of the little blighters on the day:

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