Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Sorting out our thinking on drugs

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  • Graeme Edgeler,

    The New South Wales legislature has gone another way, passing a law that bans all psychoactive substances, including those yet unknown...

    But, but ... Peter Dunne says that's impossible :-)

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3205 posts Report Reply

  • Ross Bell,

    Another great post Russell, and good timing. I'm increasingly getting frustrated (can you tell?) by people failing to get schooled on the new law and by their short memories about previous attempts to bans these products.

    It's like all the silliness around "herbal highs" going back a decade hadn't happened and that we're dealing with a new phenomenon. (Just think what life would be like if Jim Anderton allowed his Restricted Substances regulations to work).

    Politicians are being odd on this too: The minister who saw the law through parliament (Todd McClay) is calling for a ban; and while Labour's Iain Lees-Galloway is wanting the full range of regulations in place now, his caucus colleague Trevor Mallard is saying if the vote was held today, Parliament wouldn't pass the law - so we need some consistency from them.

    Peter Dunne is doing a great job in defending the law, and he got some help from the PM on this morning's TV3 news.

    (we might need to borrow your OIAs for August Matters of Substance).

    Wellington, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 175 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Ross Bell,

    and while Labour's Iain Lees-Galloway is wanting the full range of regulations in place now

    This is an unfortunate feature of the new process. Mid-2015 seems a long time to wait.

    his caucus colleague Trevor Mallard is saying if the vote was held today, Parliament wouldn't pass the law - so we need some consistency from them.

    Sigh ... Mallard.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22817 posts Report Reply

  • Ross Bell, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Yes, a long way away. This is the biggest problem with the law - the delay in getting the supporting regulations in place. The Ministry of Health blames lack of capacity, but I struggle with that. Regulation-making powers were on the cards very early in this process and drafting could have started as the bill made its way through Parliament.

    And it's not as if they were starting from scratch: there were regs being drafted way back when Jim Anderton did the Restricted Substances category. And even before that we saw some draft regs that Chen Palmer :) had started on behalf of the industry (which were quite good).

    Wellington, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 175 posts Report Reply

  • Pete George,

    It's looking like MPs are not in a mood to address this any more than they have, and unfortunately while the intent of the Psychoactive Substances Act has merit it ignores the cannabis elephant in the House.

    Patrick Gower asked a number of MPs last week "Would you vote to decriminalise cannabis?"

    No – 5
    Probably not – 1
    Yes – 2
    Consider it or possible – 2
    Wouldn’t say – 3

    That's not the best question to be asking at this stage. The SST editorial says "Sooner or later, we need a national debate on drug use and abuse" - it is becoming urgent. Politicians and parties need to understand that hoping the Act is sufficient and it will all turn out ok it carries huge risks and there are signs it could all turn to custard unless they address the whole issue and not just the synthetic half.

    Dunedin • Since Dec 2011 • 139 posts Report Reply

  • Pete George,

    Dunedin • Since Dec 2011 • 139 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to Pete George,

    it ignores the cannabis elephant in the House.

    I'm guessing they are swayed by (Re)Publicans...

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7939 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Ross Bell,

    Peter Dunne is doing a great job in defending the law, and he got some help from the PM on this morning’s TV3 news.

    Clip here. His contention that legalising cannabis wouldn't kill the synthetic cannabinomimetic market is ... debatable.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22817 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to Graeme Edgeler,

    Peter Dunne says that's impossible
    :- )

    Could that be because he refuses (recuses) contact with the players in the 'Highs Industry' - as his son acts for them?

    There is a 'fettered' stench to that stance...

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7939 posts Report Reply

  • Ross Bell, in reply to Russell Brown,

    The PM struck me as equivocal on this this morning (forever the optimist, me) "I think that's a fair question."
    http://www.3news.co.nz/PM-Legalising-cannabis-wont-kill-legal-highs/tabid/1607/articleID/340980/Default.aspx

    Wellington, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 175 posts Report Reply

  • Jacobin,

    What Ross Bell and others call hysteria and short memory is actually for a not-insignificant number of people anger from long memory of people in the 'social concern' industry around cannabis. These people like my self now see them go hard to bat for the much worse alternative because its easier than admitting the often annoying marijuana legalisation advocates were essentially correct.

    Getting Peter Dunne to admit that cannabis should be legal (which he voted against in 2006) rather than the synthetic-mimics he has enabled will never happen because it will involve him admitting he was wrong. For this and a number of other reasons he needs to retire from politics/be voted out.

    In my daily life when the topic comes up I particularly enjoy stoking the dissonance between the fact cannabis is illegal and that some of these far worse and more addictive/agitative substances are legal. It is really easy to do and now strongly palatable to most of Middle Nuzilland that cannabis legalisation is the alternative/vastly preferable.

    The class distinction between users of legal highs and cannabis is also pretty strong and easily made light of. Legal highs are now pretty much exclusively associated with bogan riff-raff who just literally need a hit to distract themselves from the reality of being socially/economically poor on these small islands while cannabis is well... a range of people from well-functioning to the depressed and in need of some social support. They range from connoisseurs and botanists to 'well, maybe a few times a year on new years day etc.'. Regardless, people almost universally recognise that the the harms are magnitudes less.

    Whereas, the people producing and selling legal highs to the tunes of millions are goofy-rich white dudes who know how to order stuff from cheap foreign producers with the internet the best and market that shit. Very hard to defend or particularly like. It makes a select few rich.

    Whereas, I have met more than a handful of young Maori boys in my life who come from family's deeply embedded in growing and selling Marijuana. Its what they know. I have encouraged them to stay on the narrow as close as possible until the day comes when Marijuana is legal and they could make themselves fine small-businessmen.

    Dunedin • Since Oct 2013 • 1 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    I’d been meaning to read up on the recently-reported study claiming changes in the brain from even occasional cannabis use. But Thomas Lumley at StatsChat has done it already.

    I’d guessed it might be questionable because of the claims being made for it. Turns out it was a real shocker and the senior author has flat-out lied about it.

    Mark Kleimann explores the angle that immediately occurred to me. There are all kinds of things you can do that change the structure of your brain. Like, say, learning stuff.

    And Thomas himself noted this in his first post about the study:

    Firstly, no-one in the study was found to have ‘changes’ in the brain: the participants got only one brain scan, so the research didn’t even look at changes. It found differences between cannabis users and non-users. There’s nothing even slightly surprising about the possibility that people who end up as regular users of an illegal drug might have started off with brain differences.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22817 posts Report Reply

  • debunk, in reply to Jacobin,

    At last the US of A are on the right track with marijuana legislation albeit it seems carefully controlled. WRT "legal highs" consider the very small difference in organic structure between ethanol and methanol (Wikipedia shows this) and magnitude of lethal effect. That's the trick with these mimetics .. ban one and just change a small component and magic - you have a "new" product. Money for jam for these sellers once the chinese lab is in production. Hard work for NZ test labs to spot the differences and they don't seem too keen on doing it. In Oz, seem to recall an ex- technical employee who moved to Canberra into plush science job who had a nice little pot plant on the back deck. Seemed to be okay for domestic consumption there ..a decade or so ago and not threatening re dicovery so far as I could see.

    New Zealand • Since Aug 2012 • 105 posts Report Reply

  • Pete George,

    "Getting Peter Dunne to admit that cannabis should be legal (which he voted against in 2006) rather than the synthetic-mimics he has enabled..."

    I agree that it could be difficult getting him to agree with cannabis becoming legal but it's unfair to lay the blame on him for enabling synthetic-mimics. Didn't they enable themselves by working around the drug laws at the time? And from what I've heard Dunne's preference is for all synthetics to be banned - although there's a bit of a contradiction there because he seems to accept that complete bans don't work.

    Dunedin • Since Dec 2011 • 139 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Pete George,

    Didn’t they enable themselves by working around the drug laws at the time?

    Yes.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22817 posts Report Reply

  • Ross Bell,

    its easier than admitting the often annoying marijuana legalisation advocates were essentially correct.

    Changing the law around cannabis might indeed go a long way to significantly reducing demand for the fake stuff. But it's arguable whether it will do anything for demand for the speedy legals highs (the first, BZP, was no cannabis substitute). Regardless cannabis law reform, we still need controls over new psychoactive substances and this law is a goodie.

    Wellington, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 175 posts Report Reply

  • debunk,

    Canberra rules (states differ)

    Two plants for domestic use ($100 fine if discovered but highly unlikely in spaced out suburbs) and no criminal offence. No hydroponics.

    New Zealand • Since Aug 2012 • 105 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Thomas again, on some of the rather credulous reporting of the Global Drug Use Survey:

    __Results from this year’s Global Drug Survey, conducted in partnership with Fairfax Media, found almost 4 per cent of synthetic cannabis users sought emergency medical treatment. More than a quarter of those were admitted to hospital.__

    It simply cannot be true that 4% of 22% of the country has sought emergency treatment after using synthetic cannabis. Even restricting to adults, that’s 30,000 people, with more 7,500 admitted to hospital. In the most recent year for which I can find data (2010-11, when the drugs were more widely available than now) there were 672,000 publicly funded hospital admissions for all causes, and of those, only 896 were for cause categories X41 & X42, which would include all synthetic cannabis cases plus many others.

    But of course, this is just in a statistics blog and not all over the home page of Stuff, so there'll never be a correction and it will become the truth. Sigh.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22817 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Ross Bell,

    But it’s arguable whether it will do anything for demand for the speedy legals highs (the first, BZP, was no cannabis substitute).

    Yes, I meant to point out that this whole story really began with BZP.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22817 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    From Stuff's story about the recent report from the Illegal Drug Monitoring System:

    Wilkins said the internet made sharing the blueprints for making new synthetic drugs easier than ever. This meant users were more likely not to know what they were taking, as new drugs were passed off as familiar products.

    A potent synthetic psychedelic, called NBOMe, has been linked to overdose deaths overseas, but in New Zealand is often mistakenly sold as less dangerous LSD. Ecstasy is also increasingly being linked to psychotic episodes and admissions to hospital. However, this may be because the pills being passed off as ecstasy are actually an unpredictable cocktail of other drugs.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22817 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to debunk,

    Regardless cannabis law reform, we still need controls over new psychoactive substances and this law is a goodie.

    What practical good has come from it?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10650 posts Report Reply

  • Ross Bell,

    Pam Corkery not liking me on the facebook:

    Gangs wouldn't touch this shit. Their networks are set up for the even more lucrative P. Synthetics aren't made here, and I can't see the likes of Bowden etc running the gauntlet of illegal importing, if it were banned. Synthetics are a crap high and it's only the legality that is selling it. I don't believe we should hide behind "prohibition doesn't work" in this case. In N/A our job is to support the addicts. I believe there's also an obligation by the Drug Foundation and legislators not to create more. And I also believe in the sovereignty of councils to be respected, and that they not be forced to facilitate the sales of legal highs. There's a lot of social factors to get right in New Zealand before moving into decriminalising drugs. Legal equals mandatory for the mainly teen market buying this crap. Push synthetics underground and the appeal would go.

    Wellington, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 175 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Yes, I meant to point out that this whole story really began with BZP.

    Well, the BZP story began with banning all the things that BZP was meant to simulate.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10650 posts Report Reply

  • debunk, in reply to BenWilson,

    Queues in the high street! None so far as I can see and plenty of future harm if these mixtures are withdrawn. Very provocative.

    New Zealand • Since Aug 2012 • 105 posts Report Reply

  • Ross Bell, in reply to BenWilson,

    Purchase age restrictions, marketing controls, mandatory poisons centre helpline on labels, out of dairies. And soon, pre-market testing for harm, consumers will know what they're taking, standards for manufacturing. Lots.

    Wellington, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 175 posts Report Reply

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