Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Keeping our heads on "bath salts"

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  • Bart Janssen,

    a poster child for the flaws in the progressive-prohibition model of drug enforcement

    So given this and given the problems we face with legal drugs, alcohol in particular, the question becomes "What does work?"

    People enjoy the effects of drugs. For some (most?) people, drugs used with some knowledge do little harm. But for some, they do a lot of harm. It doesn't seem to me that the legal system has any real mechanism for allowing people to enjoy altering their brain chemistry without doing harm.

    So what, if anything, is the right approach to allowing people to have fun without harming themselves or others?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4460 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    So what, if anything, is the right approach to allowing people to have fun without harming themselves or others?

    The new regulatory regime allows for a novel substance to be declared "low risk" and permitted for sale with restrictions. The political messaging was all around the word "safe", but that doesn't work because no psychoactive substance can be declared completely safe. Certainly, alcohol and tobacco aren't.

    It's actually a huge step to permit the sale of a psychoactive substance that has no recognised therapeutic use -- but which people simply wish to take -- but I think it's the only sensible way forward.

    A major flaw in the new regime as it stands is that no substance currently scheduled in the Misuse of Drugs act can be unscheduled. The MoDA's analog provisions are extraordinarily broad -- anything deemed chemically similar to a banned substance is also banned, even though it might be considerably more benign than a substance that escapes the analog test. BZP wasn't illegal because it wasn't illegal, but methylone was banned because it was too similar to MDMA.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22848 posts Report Reply

  • Robyn Gallagher,

    All the hype around the ‘bath salts’ drug inspired me to buy some actual real, old-fashioned bath salts. The Warehouse had some on sale. They’re quite nice -a good chilled out buzz and a lot more mellow than your traditional bubble bath experience. And unlike their namesake, I didn’t feel the urge to eat anyone’s face.

    Raglan • Since Nov 2006 • 1946 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic,

    I have just one response to the bath salts 'epidemic':

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5441 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes,

    But what if the children get hold of bath salts? They could end up.
    I once heard of a man who ate his own head, I hope he was bald, I couldn't stand the idea of eating hair.

    Peria • Since Dec 2006 • 5521 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Fizz Ed?

    It’s actually a huge step to permit the sale of a psychoactive substance that has no recognised therapeutic use – but which people simply wish to take

    When did we get on to coffee?
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    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7950 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Ian Dalziel,

    When did we get on to coffee?
    ” – )

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    Well, quite.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22848 posts Report Reply

  • mic weevil, in reply to Russell Brown,

    It's actually a huge step to permit the sale of a psychoactive substance that has no recognised therapeutic use -- but which people simply wish to take -- but I think it's the only sensible way forward.

    As a parent - recognising my child will quite possibly experiment with drugs at some point in her life - if I had a choice over what substance they were going to take I would prefer it to be MDMA or marijuana than whatever toxic garbage is currently available by dint of having not yet been prohibited.

    auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 52 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes,

    The next "Evil Drug" ® to appear on the Radar Screen of Responsible Reporting I predict will be "Cotton Wool". Users become overwhelmed with a sense of well-being and safety, that the Powers That Be are Magnificent in their Munificence and that Peter Dunne's hair looks cool.

    Peria • Since Dec 2006 • 5521 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Semmens,

    Given that our Prime Minister has decided that big tobacco is going to make the decision on plain packaging of cigarettes for us, the chances of getting any meaningful reform past the MP for Hawaii and the DEA are zero to none.

    Sevilla, Espana • Since Nov 2006 • 2217 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to mic weevil,

    if I had a choice over what substance they were going to take I would prefer it to be MDMA or marijuana than whatever toxic garbage is currently available by dint of having not yet been prohibited.

    Yes. That's the point.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22848 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Kumara Republic,

    I have just one response to the bath salts ‘epidemic’:

    Not quite a comparison, given that MDPV is actually real and fairly nasty. But yeah, merrily attributing any difficult behaviour to a drug that may not even be here is extremely unhelpful.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22848 posts Report Reply

  • Scott Chris,

    Perhaps the new regulatory regime for psychoactive substances will break New Zealand out of this vicious cycle.

    Crikey Russell, I wouldn't have picked you as being a passive advocate for prohibitionary policy.

    Auckland • Since Feb 2012 • 167 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Scott Chris,

    Perhaps the new regulatory regime for psychoactive substances will break New Zealand out of this vicious cycle.

    Crikey Russell, I wouldn’t have picked you as being a passive advocate for prohibitionary policy.

    Have you read the policy? It’s a substantial advance on what we’ve had. It provides for the regulated sale (R18) of quality-controlled recreational drugs.

    I would far rather have well-understood, cleanly-produced psychoactive drugs in the market than any old shit some cowboy has managed to import or produce. Much as I think conventional pharmaceuticals or “dietary supplements” should also be subject to retail standards.

    MDPV is a really good example of a drug that shouldn’t be approved for sale.

    The problem is that the Misuse of Drugs Act remains off-limits, but you have to hope that will change.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22848 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Another one, hot off the press:

    Over the weekend, another incident occurred in the slew of brutal "zombie apocalypse" attacks. The 22-year-old Jeremiah Haughee's cannibalistic behavior was initially blamed on designer drug "bath salt" use, but experts say this may not be the case, according to the Examiner.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22848 posts Report Reply

  • Scott Chris, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Have you read the policy? It’s a substantial advance on what we’ve had.

    No I haven't. Correct me if I'm wrong that it still doesn't amount to selective prohibition.

    End result - little Jonny's gonna take a trip to the tinny house rather than buy legal synthetic pot. Advance? Not in my book.

    Auckland • Since Feb 2012 • 167 posts Report Reply

  • Aidan,

    Cor lummy! When I were a lad bath salts were something you bought for Mother's Day so she could bung them on the side of the bath and then throw them out 7 years later.

    Are bath salts now on the endangered species list with Crème de menthe and sweetened condensed milk? Something that mysteriously disappears over time and for which no child will take the responsibility of consuming?

    Canberra, Australia • Since Feb 2007 • 154 posts Report Reply

  • Robert Wilson,

    FWIW This story on NPR implies the term "bath salts" is even less well defined than you pointed out, and makes enacting and enforcing any controls seem virtually impossible (at least according to US drug legislation).

    California, USA • Since Nov 2006 • 11 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Scott Chris,

    End result – little Jonny’s gonna take a trip to the tinny house rather than buy legal synthetic pot. Advance? Not in my book.

    If you want no regulation or quality control of drugs, that's up to you. But personally I'd prefer to know what I'm taking and that it's properly produced. I don't want it sold in dairies or to kids. This is the same standard I'd want for any pharmaceutical I'm going to put in my body.

    I also think that cannabis should be legalised and would hope that at some point the Misuse of Drugs Act will be revised along evidence-based lines. But this is a start.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22848 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Semmens,

    Have you read the policy? It’s a substantial advance on what we’ve had.

    It is clear what the recommendation that dare not speak it’s name is from the regulatory impact statement. But the idea that New Zealand might actually start allowing people to legally manufacture MDMA or cannabis analogues as part of a well regulated regime is pure fantasyland stuff.

    Think about it. There is zero chance the Australians would be at all happy with New Zealanders nonchalantly turning up at their borders with legal-in-NZ class B and C drugs about their persons and clogging up their customs services. Or delighted with Australian citizens returning from weekends in the sudden new party meccas of Auckland or Queenstown clearly having been doing things still naughty in the eyes of the Commonwealth of Australia. We’ve all heard of the silk road carry on, how chuffed would our friends overseas be when some dude shows up selling mail order class B and C drugs legally from a .co.nz address? After they recovered from fainting the Americans would probably fire a cruise missile at his warehouse, and that is not to mention what might arrive in the return mail from Mexican drug cartels annoyed at someone stepping on their toes.

    The government will undoubtedly use the new regulatory environment suggested to create a more perfect prohibition. Given the trade and diplomatic implications they can hardly do anything else. Anyone who thinks anything different is simply dreaming.

    Sevilla, Espana • Since Nov 2006 • 2217 posts Report Reply

  • Grant McDougall,

    My money's on Peter Dunne to be the first politician to try to make political capital of out this.

    (Woo-hoo ! This is my first post on PA in a few months after my PC died and I've splashed out on a laptop. It's nice to be back).

    Dunedin • Since Dec 2006 • 760 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Tom Semmens,

    We’ve all heard of the silk road carry on, how chuffed would our friends overseas be when some dude shows up selling mail order class B and C drugs legally from a .co.nz address? After they recovered from fainting the Americans would probably fire a cruise missile at his warehouse, and that is not to mention what might arrive in the return mail from Mexican drug cartels annoyed at someone stepping on their toes.

    Well, psychedelic drugs in the 2C class can still be legally produced and purchased in the US, ketamine is produced by the barrel in places like India, MDAI is produced in China and India (you can buy it by the 10kg lot here). Everything that has been legally sold in party pills in New Zealand is legitimately produced somewhere. Matt Bowden reckons he has 20-30 novel substances lined up for trials.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22848 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Semmens,

    The point isn’t that the ability to import these analogues (or the real McCoy) may be possible now. A regulated trade for legal purposes clearly exists for something like ketamine. The point is it is one thing for a bunch of common gangsters in the quasi-state of Montenegro to operate a website on the fringes of a weak and/or corrupt government. But it is quite another for a respectable, first world, English speaking nation tightly woven in the globalised Anglosphere to suddenly start openly and legally processing and attractively packaging the stuff up for frank recreational consumption on the weekend. I mean, we are a real country with a proper government who are presided over by the Queen of England, for God’s sake, not some loud foreign chap with a penchant for to much gold braid on his uniform. It simply wouldn’t do, and our diplomats and politicians would be told that it simply wouldn’t do in no uncertain terms.

    Sevilla, Espana • Since Nov 2006 • 2217 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Grant McDougall,

    My money’s on Peter Dunne to be the first politician to try to make political capital of out this.

    Oh, he has, already. The "reverse the onus of proof" angle is basically what's got this through -- Dunne et al can grandstand on promising to keep us all safe. But the new system was actually devised by Ministry of Health officials who sold Dunne and subsequently Cabinet on it. And for all they've trumpeted about only allowing things that are "safe", the formal standard they've agreed to is "low risk".

    It might all turn out badly, but the agreement to license psychoactive/recreational drugs subject to standard trials is world-leading.

    (Woo-hoo ! This is my first post on PA in a few months after my PC died and I’ve splashed out on a laptop. It’s nice to be back).

    Welcome back!

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22848 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Tom Semmens,

    But it is quite another for a respectable, first world, English speaking nation tightly woven in the globalised Anglosphere to suddenly start openly and legally processing and attractively packaging the stuff up for frank recreational consumption on the weekend.

    The site I linked to offers next-day delivery (by the kilo if you want) anywhere in the UK. The problem is that everything it sells could be banned tomorrow.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22848 posts Report Reply

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