Drugged democracy

The Psychoactive Substances Act was hailed around the word as potentially ground-breaking in they way it tried to deal with the scourge of drugs.

Now it is unlikely we will know how it would have worked. Politicians, especially from National and Labour, seem to have been spooked by public pressure in election year and have back-flipped. Today under urgency Parliament will look to neuter the Act.

Legal high ban to be introduced to Parliament
The Government is about to bring a bill to Parliament that will ban the remaining 36 “legal high” drugs that are still being sold.

It will be introduced today and debated under urgency.

Prime Minister John Key expects it will be passed into law by around noon tomorrow.

None of the products will be back on the shelves until they’ve been tested – without using animals – and proved to be low risk.

The effect of this is an interim ban on all synthetic drugs, and it is seen as quite possibly effectively becoming a permanent ban. The ‘low harm’ bar has not yet been set but it looks like it may be difficult to get any synthetic to market legally.

This means it’s certain that many of these drugs will go underground and will be uncontrolled by any regulations. Criminal gangs are likely to be at the forefront of pushing more drugs on the black market.

The leader of this drastic change in approach is Prime Minister John Key.

Future legal highs so weak I don’t see them as drugs: Key

Legal highs on sale in future will be so weak they will not be considered drugs, Prime Minister John Key says.

He said yesterday he would never back the legalisation of recreational drugs, because there were plenty of other things to keep Kiwis amused.

“I personally will never support the legalisation of drugs in New Zealand as long as I am prime minister in Parliament,” he said yesterday.

And he seems to be dictating how low the ‘low harm’ bar will be set. I wonder if caffeine would pass his new threshold.

He accepted there was an inconsistency between that view on drugs and on alcohol.

Inconsistency and political expediency go together.

But he rejected suggestions that it may have been easier to make cannabis legal, rather than allowing synthetic drugs to be sold.

There was enough scientific evidence to support the view that long-term cannabis use caused damage, he said.

Yes, all long term use of drugs can cause damage to some people, of course including alcohol.

Key and also David Cunliffe have made it clear that relaxing cannabis law is not going to happen – that means it is very unlikely to be considered until 2017 at the earliest no matter whether National or Labour forms the next government.

We have representative democratic government in New Zealand. The majority of people don’t like nasty drugs being available and don’t want nasty drugs being available. Parliament is choosing to adjust to majority opinion on drugs.

This doesn’t always happen.

Sometimes leadership involves making decisions despite overwhelming public opinion opposing law changes, as with the ‘smacking law’.

Sometimes leadership involves influencing and carrying public opinion on waves of common sense as with the ‘marriage equality’ law.

But sometimes politicians are intoxicated by an addiction to votes.

It is widely accepted that banning drugs doesn’t stop their use. Cannabis is a significant example of this.

But today Parliament is going to ban drugs which will inevitable mean they will be sold and pushed illegally by criminals without any regulation or quality control.

Our members of parliament may feel good about representing the majority and reacting to public pressure.

The adverse effects of their actions may not be apparent until after the election in September.

But politicians craving for power won’t address the many current and ongoing addictions to drugs they are trying to sweep under the campaign carpet.

Banning won’t make drugs disappear. Our politicians have pledged to keep their heads in the sand for the next few years at least, and our democracy will remain drugged.

Leave a comment


  1. 2 words:
    Moral Panic

  2. Micko

     /  9th May 2014

    And two more: me, too.


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