Hard News by Russell Brown


From Zero: New Zealand and drugs

Over the past few years, psychoactive drugs and the means by which society deals with them have become a specialist subject for me. It's a field where so many things meet: science, medicine, politics, the law, philosophy, culture. It runs from policy to pop.

So I'm genuinely thrilled to be able to point you to the first episode of From Zero, a seven-part podcast and broadcast series for RNZ.

The title refers to the historical consensus that pre-contact Māori were that rare society with no use for intoxicants. In this first episode Dr Hirini Kaa offers an intriguing explanation for why that was so. It's not really down to a lack of goods – rongoā Māori incorporates a number of psychoactive plants, but they weren't used to get high.

Historian Redmer Yska and writer and documentarian David Herkt then help take us through to a present day when New Zealanders' use of some illicit drugs is amongst the highest in the world. The story of how we got there is sometimes a surprising one.

This first episode is a walk through history, but successive ones – including one on cannabis that's already in the can – will have more of a journalistic arc. The series will conclude with an episode called 'Are We There Yet?', examining the pressure for reform and thinking about what a more sustainable future might look like.

For now, new episodes of From Zero will be here online every Monday morning, on iTunes and Spotify and broadcast every Monday after the 10pm news on RNZ Nights. (I'll also be having a chat about the series with Bryan Crump after the 9pm news tonight.)

I hope you like it, because I'm loving making it. And I'm grateful to Tim Watkin for taking the leap and giving me RNZ's first outside commission for a podcast series, and the marvellous Justin Gregory for his help and support in putting the episodes together.

Have a listen. And, y'know, share that shit ...

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