Questions about cannabis related to synthetic drug use and law

There’s a lot of discussion about synthetic drugs and associated issues. The issue of how cannabis fits in is also being increasingly raised. I have some questions on this.

  • What are people’s thoughts here about what part cannabis plays in the synthetic drug issue?
  • Is cannabis as risky, riskier or is it safer?
  • If cannabis was available the same as synthetics would the problem be better, worse or similar?
  • If no synthetics pass the safety test of the new Act and nothing else changes will the problems get better or worse?
  • Should the laws related to cannabis use be reviewed?
  • Should the laws related to cannabis cultivation be reviewed?
  • Should the laws related to cannabis supply be reviewed?
  • Should all psychoactive substances be banned (including cannabis)?

I’m researching and seeking opinions on cannabis versus synthetic drugs. No drug is completely safe, but total bans never work, people will find ways of using drugs, legally or illegally.

When the Psychoactive Substances Act kicks in we may have no synthetic drugs legally for sale or we may have a reduced number of them for sale. Regardless, we will still have issues with drug use, drug addiction and associated problems – especially health and crime.

‘SPC’ on Labour’s predicament

Another response to Kiwi in America’s essay on Labour’s failings, SPC has posted at both Kiwiblog and The Standard.

FACT 1 – The Rogernomics era had no mandate from the party. It nearly destroyed Labour.

FACT 2 – It took till 1999-2002 and a Labour government that delivered on its manifesto to restore trust between caucus and party member – this lead to the end of any need for “New Labour”.

FACT 3 – However this alone was and is insufficient for restoration. The Labour Party is not yet over what Rogernomics did to it (but then nor is New Zealand).

To have a party based on democratic, and meritocratic, selection involves trust that candidates will remain loyal to the party and its manifesto. This was something completely breached in the 1980′s. So between 1987 and 2011, selection was based on a party faction patronage – this of course meant it was somewhat insulated from inclusive participation by the general public.

The Labour Party was so abused by its caucus in the 1980′s that only the recent party reforms, the retirement of the last of the 1980′s era personnel and the decline of the party factions of recent decades will enable renewal.

Too much focus on the people involved just obscures the circumstance in which they operated.

However

FACT 4 – Being expert in managing factions gave Clark an advantage in MMP.

The irony however is in that with a majority in caucus being of the ABC persuasion, when he was the choice of the wider party, we have continuance of the caucus and party divide that began their problems 30 years ago. And for the same reason, those dominant in caucus “knew better” (about policy or who should be leader).

FACT 5 – Cunliffe will only get confidence from his caucus if the membership of it changes or he wins an election.

FACT 6 – Labour Leaders are now required to retain the trust of their party, and thus the idea that a caucus leader can lead the party in new directions without first getting a mandate is now buried. The party can no longer be hijacked by turning its leader or finance spokesperson – a message to Treasury, whether in domestic and international aspect, as much as to the caucus.

Whether this makes for a more left wing party is harder to say. The party activist is less likely to want caucus to compromise for centrist votes, yet a more open party means more internal diversity and a broader base membership.

 

‘Ad’ on Labour’s predicament

Amongst some predicable knee-jerk messenger attacks in response Kiwi in America’s essay on Labour’s failings there’s been some interesting contributions.

‘Ad’ has commented at The Standard:

It’s a thoughtful piece.

I agree with the general point in it that the caucus talent is thin, and that this is the primary cause of succession difficulties. I cannot think of any around me in my forties who would consider it.

I also agree that the rump of the Lange-Moore administration forms the ABC club that has actively fought renewal from day one.

I don’t buy the Clark conspiracy. I simply view comprehensive and systemic HR internal promotion and selection as being part of successful leadership.

The difficulties that David Cunliffe is facing are not caused by Helen Clark’s legacy. They are different.

Firstly to get where he is, those seeking to reform the party from within have had to engage in nearly a decade of careful momentum-building. This included the Labour Party constitutional reforms mentioned in the piece in 2012. Given the intransigence and hard internal attacks of the rump, there was no alternative but to spend considerable energy focussing inwards paving the way for change. This no doubt appeared unattractive and blunted grassroots political evangelical confidence, but strengthened party membership and mechanisms considerably.

Secondly, Cunliffe’s principle of meritocratic promotion of talent, rather than promotion for factional control, is going to take time to weed out the poor performers and invite talent to compete and win selection. National’s internal reforms of caucus have certainly been easier precisely because the churn enables more strivers to see a future pathway to power. Meritocratic promotion is in my view the only way to break down factions, but it’s root and branch, and it takes years.

Third, the policy platform is having to be rebuilt from scratch. It’s a different path from both Clark and Lange/Douglas. David Cunliffe has had only since the abrupt leadership change barely six months ago to get this going.

Finally, changing leader one year out from election has a massive drop in momentum internally. We can see that through the uneven changes in his leaders’ office. I am not yet convinced that the media team there are coherent, for example. That is only an illustration of the internal shifts that the entire supporter, membership and caucus groups have to go through.

On David’s side are a few things.
First, how close Labour got last time. In MMP it really is down to the wire. The essay writer appears to have left political activism under FPP and does not understand that it really is down to a 2-3% shift in National’s fortunes and all is in play.

Secondly, Labour understand their base far better, and are mobilising far better than previously.

Finally, it’s him. As Colin James said in March this year, when he’s at his best, David Cunliffe is better than John Key. The vital question is whether those around him allow him to enable his confidence, surefooted preparation, and his kind of future Prime Minister, to be made apparent.

JK:

I can go along with what Ad is saying. It IS going to be close, right down to the wire – but there are a number of things going for Labour which are “behind the scenes” so to speak, and time will tell if what is happening there will achieve the result we want.

Anne:

A very good summing of Labour’s position Ad. Thanks.

But I don’t agree with the assumption that the caucus talent is thin. I think there is quite a bit of latent talent that, for various reasons, didn’t get a chance to see the light of day under the Clark/Goff/ Shearer regimes. Add to them the fact it seems likely a number of people will join the caucus later this year who will significantly boost the talent pool.

Ad:

Outline them, and what they have contributed.

No response to that.

More on social media and defamation

Not surprisingly the Joe Karam defamation case victory has initiated comment online. See Karam defamation case a warning to blogs?  from yesterday.

There were some interesting reactions to this at The Standard yesterday.

More views on the Karam versus Parker and Purkiss defamation case:

The Paepae: Defamation via Facebook and ‘a private website’

This defamation case should be a shot across the bows of various internet wide-boys who think ‘defence of truth’ or ‘opinion honestly held’ is some kind of magic elixir or Get Out of Jail Free card. It’s worth noting the oh-so-easy-to-reach-for-until-you’re-tested ‘truth defence’ in this case was abandoned during the trial.

Occasional Erudite: The Joe Karam defamation case – what does it mean for blogs and social media?

To my mind though, the way in which Courtney J has applied the threshold test under which honest opinion can be relied upon doesn’t necessarily take into account the way that blogs and social media sites function.

That’s why I’m slightly uncomfortable with the judgment. A comment on a blog post, when viewed in isolation or as part of the individual blog post and the thread of comments that follow, may not appear to have a factual basis. However, when viewed as part of a blogger or commentator’s history of blogging or commenting, may have a factual basis that is well known to others who frequent the blog.

That’s not to say that the defendants in Mr Karam’s defamation suit don’t richly deserve to have been found to have defamed Mr Karam. My concern is whether the case sets a precedent that doesn’t necessarily fit with the way that blogs and social media actually operate.

Why Labour is Struggling

Worthwhile reading for anyone interested in Labour’s progress (or lack thereof). Kiwi in America is an ex Labour activist with an in depth knowledge of the party.

Guest Post – Why is Labour Struggling in 2014? An Essay on the History of Labour’s Predicament

David asked me to guest post this while he was away so here’s some reading over this stormy Easter weekend (I’m in soggy Christchurch as I write this). With Labour consistently polling between 28 and 34% (current poll of polls has Labour at just under 31%) since its defeat in 2008, it has a number of problems convincing voters that they are an alternative government in waiting for the 2014 election. Labour’s problems are three fold and the purpose of this essay is to posit the origins of their problems by drawing on my time inside Labour to provide some explanations:

1 – Why its policies are less appealing to the vote rich centre ground of NZ politics
2 – Why Labour has such a shallow pool of caucus talent from which to choose an attractive leader
3 – How, under MMP, Labour have boxed themselves into a relatively narrow ideological centre left electoral corridor crowded out to the left by the Greens and Mana and to the right by National

KIA goes into detail on Labour’s recent history. He concludes:

Labour was once a great party. It attracted people of energy, passion and ability from many walks of life. It had reforming zeal usually tempered by the realism of its once broader membership base and if it went too far, the voters returned the Treasury benches to the safer hands of National.

Labour’s 1984 to 87 Cabinet, despite their leftist roots, embarked on a series of dramatic reforms that have transformed NZ into the more vibrant and dynamic economy it is today.

The left of the party waged a war so total and absolute to purge the party of that instinct that it has destroyed modern Labour and left it a shrunken left leaning shell of its former self that struggles to attract electable talent, will not rejuvenate its caucus, offers policies that excite only 25% of the country and fights with the Greens (who are seen as more pure and virginal) for the centre left vote.

The harder left base are tone deaf to the electoral realities of New Zealand politics believing that they will win the day if the great unwashed knew what was good for them and if the policies of the left were articulated better.

Without a major change of direction, Labour’s prescription is a recipe for long term electoral oblivion!

Posted at: http://www.kiwiblog.co.nz/2014/04/guest_post_-_why_is_labour_struggling_in_2014_an_essay_on_the_history_of_labours_predicament_.html

Grim Easter poll for Labour

An awful poll result for Labour. National are back up again.

National 48.5% (+5.5%)
Labour 28.5% (-3.5%)
Greens 11.5% (-1.5%)
NZFirst 5.5% (no change)
Conservatives 2% (-0.5)
Maori Party 1% (-0.5)
Mana 1% (+.5)
Internet Party 1% (+0.5)
Act 0.5% (no change)
UF 0% (-0.5)
Other 0.5%

Roy Morgan poll

Roy Morgan 14-04-13

DPF’s Himalayan adventure

David Farrar runs one of the most widely read and respected (and hated) political forums – Kiwiblog. He doesn’t stick to politics, he often posts about what he does, he reviews arts and he reports on his frequent travels. He gets some friendly criticism for this but they can be a good diversion from hard core politics.

He is currently trekking in the Himalayas and has posted a series of accounts with numerous photos. It’s a very interesting look at something very different to New Zealand politics.

A lot of the trekking is at 4,000-5,000 meters, with a peak of 5360 metres going over the Chola Pass. Mt Aoraki/Cook is 3,724 metres.

DPF described this as “Just to prove I was here” but he’s been known to use Photoshop.

The region of the trek (from Google Maps)

Sagarmatha

The trek went was past the Gyoko lakes that can be seen just above and below the text “Sagarmatha National Park” beside the glacier.

Karam defamation case a warning to blogs?

Joe Karam has had a major win in a defamation case taken against two men who waged a campaign against him in social media.

People who comment on blogs and Facebook and Twitter and other online forums should carefully consider the potential implications of this case. I often see similar sorts of false or unprovable claims and personal attacks.

Karam awarded $535,000 over defamation

Joe Karam has been awarded $535,000 in a defamation case against two men who launched an “all-out assault” on his reputation because of his support for David Bain.

The online comments by Kent Parker and Victor Purkiss accused Mr Karam of being dishonest in his motivations for helping Mr Bain after he was cleared in 2009 of murdering five members of his family.

Mr Karam said the public campaign against his integrity was the “worst four years” of his life, and Justice Patricia Courtney said she believed the former All Black.

She ordered Mr Parker to pay damages of $350,500 and Mr Purkiss to pay $184,500.

Justice Courtney also ordered that all defamatory messages be removed from the websites.

She further punished the men by awarding indemnity costs against them because they “behaved egregiously” in choosing to use the defence of truth at the trial last October.

Justice Courtney’s judgment noted evidence of Mr Karam’s “integrity, generosity and altruism”.

That’s huge damages, made significantly worse because they tried to use the defence of truth,

Mr Purkiss did not attend it, but Mr Parker admitted under cross-examination by Michael Reed, QC, that he could not prove his claims.

A belated admission that claims could not be proven.

The legal bill could be $500,000 according to Mr Karam, bringing to around $1 million the cost to the defendants. That would make it one of the largest defamation damages and cost awards in New Zealand history.

Mr Karam said if the pair did not pay him, he would take bankruptcy proceedings against them.

Purkiss has moved to England and according to the herald the defamation case “was a factor in the break-up of his marriage”. From social media warriors to being in family and financial crap.

This should be a warning to bloggers and blog commenters, Twitter and Facebook users.

There have been major discussions on Kiwiblog on the Bain case and that has included many criticisms of Karam, not dissimilar to what have been described in this case.

In her ruling, released yesterday, the judge identified about 50 defamatory statements published on Facebook and on a private website by Mr Parker and Mr Purkiss — members of the Justice for Robin Bain group — to which there was no defence.

Mr Karam said the men had made “an all-out assault on me [in] an attempt to show that I’m shonky”.

He and Fairfax NZ had earlier agreed to settle defamation claims, on a confidential basis, arising from articles on stuff.co.nz that drew attention to the websites that contained the defamatory comments by Mr Parker and Mr Purkiss.

People commenting anonymously may think they are immune from defamation but that could be put to the test legally.

And bloggers who allow open slather comments should note that Fairfax NZ has been also held responsible in this case and have settled privately. I frequently see potentially defamatory comments made on a number of blogs.

At times stalking and harassment of me could amount to “an all-out assault on me [in] an attempt to show that I’m shonky”, and I’ve seen many other examples.

Most people being attacked online don’t take defamation action and the attackers probably think they are safe from being held to account.

Parker and Purkiss probably thought they were untouchable and could make unsubstantiated claims with impunity. They may have thought they could exploit the power of free speech.

They may have believed their own hype and thought that believing something was sufficient justification for attacking someone’s integrity. This seems have continued “in choosing to use the defence of truth at the trial”.

Those who think they are safe attacking and defaming online should have a good look at this case.

A PDF of the decision here.

Synthetic drugs and cannabis

A post at Trip Me:

At the end of the day, natural cannabis needs to be legalized. In an ideal world, we would have high CBD, low THC cannabis available for recreational and medical use and everyone would vaporize at a reasonable temp. But this is not an ideal world now is it?

Natural cannabis has MUCH of the same issues that we see with synthetic cannabis, if used and abused to the same extent however.

Any young person, under the age of 21, that smokes up to and above an ounce a week, of natural cannabis skunk, is going to suffer long term psychological damage. There have been some minor studies to prove this, but for those of us that have friends and family that have been smoking for years and years, we know this already.

ALCOHOL does exactly the same thing, only ten times worse. We are hearing reports of people getting violent and aggressive, but there is absolutely NO denying that there is a subset of the population that has these violent and aggressive tendencies without drugs or alcohol, so of course these people are going to suffer ill-effects. Don’t act like natural cannabis somehow doesn’t have these negative side effects. Because it does.

I find it absolutely mind blowing that people jump up and down claiming that the public is being used as some sort of human experiment, when we have these pharmaceutical companies shoveling all sorts of medicines down peoples throats that have pages upon pages of negative side effects. How IRONIC is it that most of the currently prescribed anti-depressants include side effects such as Nausea, Insomnia, Anxiety, Restlessness, Tremors, Sweating, Sleepiness or fatigue, Dry mouth, Headaches, SUICIDAL THOUGHTS!!! – Sound familiar??? (Currently about 10% of the New Zealand population are on anti-depressants)

Almost every medicine available is an ongoing public experiment, how can you not understand this?

We live in a world where hundreds and thousands of unregulated chemicals go in to the manufacture of house hold goods, cleaning products and our FOOD.

We also need to understand, that the Ministry of Health obviously has some extremely high level experts working on this law. If there was some sort of immediate or serious long term harm to the public, if used correctly, do you honestly think the products would still be on the shelves? I find it very hard to believe that the chemists, scientists and doctors working for, or advising the government haven’t done some sort of due diligence to ensure people aren’t going to drop dead.

Most of the synthetic cannbinoids were developed by some of the largest pharma companies in the world for human consumption, as medicines, or controls, or whatever, then of course many were then modified by equally intelligent chemists in order to change the effect or skirt the law. But the fact of the matter is, right now, the cannabinoids that are used in most products possibly aren’t the most ideal cannabinoids available and we are likely to see better studied and better suited noids in future products.

The biggest issue in all of this is education. Young people simply should not be using them at all. I think the age restriction should be 21 and not 18, same with alcohol quite frankly. Personally I think ALL packs should have some sort of warning stating that the chemicals contained in these products have NOT been thoroughly tested and are to be used at a users own risk. And people need to understand that, at the end of the day, Synthetic Cannabis is a DRUG. Just because it is legal does not make it suddenly some sort of magical substance that is safe from side effects and abuse. It’s not. No drugs are!

Somebody show me ONE cannabis user that doesn’t have problems sleeping at night or get agitated the day after smoking.
Somebody show me ONE alcohol user that hasn’t injured themselves or killed a few brain or liver cells from binge drinking.

The harms are all relative, and drugs are not going away any time soon. Sure we could “ban” synthetic cannabis, but there is no doubt in my mind that the people that are truly abusing these products are going to find another fix. Glue sniffing, huffing, pills, whatever.

Let’s also remember that not all synthetic highs are created equally. There are a number of “bad apples” in the industry, and the government are doing what they can now to weed these people out. (No pun intended) – Only now are we getting to the stage where all manufacturing is closely monitored, all chemicals need to be tested for purity, we are now getting to the stage (FINALLY) where chemicals and I guess the plant matter and finished product must go through some very very strict and serious tests to ensure they are “low risk”.

Remember that this all takes time and money. The government also requires statistics to define what should be considered “low risk” – how do they get some of those statistics? From health departments of course. Obviously we have the toxicity testing and all that, but there is certainly an element of real life case studies that are needed. We have had almost ten years of synthetic cannabis (ab)use in New Zealand and with this data, the government is able to make a more informed decision.

We already know alcohol would NEVER pass these tests. But it’s all relative. If you are going to take a DRUG, then you know, there are some risks associated with the use of that drug. With the use of ANY drug. But consumers need to be educated that this is the case and consumers need to be of an age where they are able to make such informed decisions.

If natural cannabis were legal, the same thing would apply.

I’d like to take a step back for a minute, and let’s pretend like synthetic cannabis were never introduced. Where would we be along the road to better drug laws? Probably not very far, not even close to where we are now.

So let’s look at a few statistics shall we?

The latest global drug survey gave us an interesting insight in to New Zealand Drug Use, and it is hugely concerning;

7.9% of New Zealanders have used LSD in the past year, 31.9% in their lifetimes.
13.1% of New Zealanders have used “MDMA” in the past year, 36.4% in their lifetimes.
4.9% have used Amphetamines and 3.2% have used Cocaine in the past year.

Now let’s not kid ourselves here, how sure are we, that organized crime syndicates and local drug dealers have the end users health in mind when they are cutting their products for greater profits?

How sure are we that those 580 THOUSAND New Zealanders that have used “MDMA” in the past year actually got MDMA? How sure are we that those pills or bags of powder were not cut with HIGHLY HIGHLY dangerous chemicals or other synthetic drugs that are not regulated or tested?

Have any of you actually seen the number of new RC’s that are developed around the world on a monthly basis? Times are changing guys. We no longer live in the world of ‘cocaine’ ‘ecstasy’ and ‘cannabis’ – there are hundreds of thousands of drug dealers that don’t give two shits about what they are selling as long as it gives the user “a buzz” – and you know what else? – A large majority of users probably don’t give two shits about what they are taking either … so long as it gives them “a buzz”.

The same can be said for the 350 THOUSAND New Zealanders that took what they thought was “LSD” in the past 12 months – most likely made in a lab somewhere with poor quality controls, most likely not even LSD half of the time.

The same can be said for cocaine, meth, whatever people are taking these days. It’s a truly STAGGERING number of people that are taking recreational drugs. Unreal if you ask me.

So the reality is, people are going to use and abuse drugs, regardless of their safety profile, regardless or their legality and regardless of the cost.

If we, as a country, can make steps towards giving well over half a million New Zealanders (likely a hell of a lot more), the chance to use some of these recreational substances, with the knowledge that they don’t contain harmful adulterants, they are not cut to crap with god knows what, they are what they say they are on the pack (as if this happens with illegal drugs anyway) and they have the support of the health system if something goes wrong, then I truly believe we are going to be in a position where we are SAVING more lives than we are LOSING. Both in terms of fatalities and long term quality of life.

The social and economic costs of NOT continuing down this path of regulation is, in my opinion, indescribable.

Now … back to where we stand at this very moment. We have synthetic cannabinoids that are awaiting trials and safety testing. We also we have a subset of people that are abusing them, not knowing that they could become addicted and cause some side effects. We also have legal high companies that are selling these products and are getting a hard time.

Sure there are some bad apples like I said above, and we all know this, but there are also somepeople, that have a much greater vision for the future of this country, and the world. A world where good, honest, law abiding citizens aren’t locked up or given a criminal record for cannabis possession … a world where good, honest people, can relax or party hard on occasion with a safe regulated recreational pill, powder or substance without the fear of retribution, whatever that may be.

And let’s just remember that it takes time and money to get to that point. We wouldn’t be half way down that path without this new law, we wouldn’t have this new law without synthetic cannabis, and without the legal highs companies being in the financial position to afford to develop and test these substances, we will never reach that goal or that vision, and all the hard work would be unwound and the underworld will once again reign supreme.

Let’s just hope that even after all the media hysteria, bullying and abuse at least one or two of the “good apples” can make it through and make the world a better place.

Seven Sharp’s stink perception

Seven Sharp ran an item last night ‘revealing’ that Peter Dunne’s son James is a legal representative for the legal high industry. They promoted it as an exclusive.

This is covered well by Karol at The Standard in Father & son: Dunne deals?

Seven Sharp said at the least there is an appearance of conflict of interest.

I had already noticed that a James Dunne was representing the legal high industry and presumed there was either a family connection oe it was a coincidence, but I didn’t think it mattered.

Peter Dunne can’t instruct his son what he should or shouldn’t do in his professional capacity. James Dunne can’t instruct his father on what he does in Parliament.

One thing pointed out by Seven Sharp was James Dunne’s promotion on his company profile:

valuable inside knowledge of how Parliament works in New Zealand

Obviously in some ways he will have a very good insight into how Parliament works, his father has been an MP all his life, but he could have worded this much better.

My biggest issue with this is with Seven Sharp. They have promoted it as big news:

Peter Dunne and Legal Highs Son

An exclusive on the link between a Peter Dunne and the man fighting against his crackdown on legal highs.

And as Karol says they “claim that at the least there is an appearance of conflict of interest.”

That’s because they have created that appearance and highlighted it as significant news. They have provided no evidence at all to make it any more than a manufactured perception. If they had said nothing there would be little or no public perception.

TVNZ have tried to create news out of nothing of substance. This is stink journalism.

And as some of the comments at The Standard show, it has initiated a bout of stink politics.

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