Lack of urgency on mass killing by poison

Maggy Wassilieff made a good point yesterday about the spate of deaths as a result of synthetic drug use:

Somebody is lacing dried plant material with lethal poison.

This person is a killer. Why aren’t they being hunted down by every cop/soldier in the country?

If we had a sniper/terrorist at loose who had killed 8 people and wounded numerous others in Auckland over the last month, the whole shebang would be in lockdown.

Why do I get the impression that it’s business as usual?

I presume the police are doing some sort of investigation into the source of these lethal drugs, and the suppliers of these lethal drugs. But I haven’t seen any sign of urgency or effort.

Compare this to a case that began in November 2014,when there was a threat to lace milk powder with 1080. This had major trade implications and proved costly financially, it was despicable, but no one was harmed let alone killed.

Stuff: The 1080 milk crisis, from beginning to end

Police have arrested a man almost a year after threats to poison baby milk formula prompted an investigation costing $3 million, and safety measures involving more than 150,000 batch tests on milk products.

The case began in November (2014), when Fonterra and Federated Farmers received 1080-laced packets of infant formula along with a threat to contaminate retail supplies unless the Government stopped using the pest control.

The public knew nothing of this until March 10, when Ministry for Primary Industries deputy director general Scott Gallacher and deputy police commissioner Mike Clement explained the threat at a press conference.

“I’m confident the public will solve this,” Clement said.

Prime Minister John Key assured people infant formula was safe to drink: “We are advised it is extremely unlikely anyone could deliberately contaminate formula during the manufacturing process and there is no evidence that this has ever occurred.”

This eventually resulted in a conviction and a sentence of eight and a half years in prison.

1 News:  Lengthy jail term for 1080 milk threat a deterrent, says Fonterra boss

The eight-and-a-half-year prison sentence for the Auckland businessman who threatened to poison baby milk powder is a deterrent to others, Fonterra’s boss says.

Sixty-year-old Jeremy Kerr’s attempts to blackmail Fonterra and Federated Farmers cost the companies involved and taxpayers $37 million.

Prime Minister John Key says Kerr’s threats that could kill babies were “just despicable behaviour”.

And Fonterra Managing Director Maury Leyland says the idea of that happening is terrifying.

“And that’s why the sentencing, I think, denounces the crime and provides an appropriate deterrent,” said Ms Leyland outside the High Court in Auckland.

In the High Court in Auckland, Justice Geoffrey Venning said the potential impact on New Zealand’s trade relationships with China and other countries was extremely serious.

The police admit the investigation was like looking for a needle in a haystack.

It was a difficult case to solve but the police eventually got a result. It was costly in terms of dollars and threats to trade.

But in the current illegal drug trade a number of people have died, and it’s safe to assume that many more have suffered, A large number of lives have been ruined by drug concoctions that are deliberately made to be addictive, and they are pushed to vulnerable people.

What are the police doing about it? Where is the public assurances that everything possible is being done to protect people from this spate of poisoning?

Why aren’t politicians jumping up and down and demanding more be done?

Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne has been saying something: Govt ‘not satisfied’ with synthetic cannabis death handling

Mr Dunne said the first he knew about seven deaths linked to unidentified psychoactive substances this month was about an hour before police made the information public in a news release.

That number rose to eight yesterday when a man died after becoming ill from smoking synthetic cannabis.

Mr Dunne was satisfied with the detection work police were doing to track down who was selling and distributing the drugs, which can contain a range of different and sometimes unknown chemicals.

“I’m not satisfied, though, with the information that’s being shared,” Mr Dunne told Morning Report.

“That information had obviously been known to police and the coronial officials for some time. I don’t think it’s reasonable that the government wasn’t made aware of that until virtually the last minute.”

The government was now coordinating a response from police, district health boards and Ministry of Health officials – something that could have been done earlier with better communication, he said.

Dunne has been left fronting for the government on serious drug issues again.

Where are the other MPs on this? Ducking for cover it seems.

Mr Dunne agreed that more liberal laws for natural cannabis could help.

“But there are two big problems in this issue – one’s called National and one’s called Labour,” he said.

“Both the major parties have consistently ruled out any change in this area.”

Because it’s just drug users (and isn’t a threat to business?) this doesn’t appear to be much of a concern to other parties.

NZ Herald: Drug deaths don’t warrant Government response – Prime Minister Bill English

English rejected suggestions that an urgent Government-level response was required this afternoon, instead saying that people needed to avoid illegal substances and show more personal responsibility.

Speaking at his weekly press conference this afternoon, English said he had asked for advice on any possible responses to the fatalities.

“[The advice] falls into two categories. It is an illegal drug, it has to be policed, and we are not the police force.

“But the most important thing here … is that people do not take these illegal substances that can kill them.

“That sense of personal responsibility is pretty critical to staying alive. They need to decide they are not going to take these drugs”.

I guess babies and their parents could have been educated about the risks of taking milk powder – close to zero risk in reality.

Green Party health spokeswoman Julie-Anne Genter…

…said she was “extremely shocked and upset” at the absence of any Government plan or response to the drug-related deaths and injuries.

She said that in the short term the police should at least create a special unit to deal with the synthetic cannabis issue. Drug-checking facilities should also be made legal and resourced, she said.

In the medium term, Genter said legalising cannabis would create a “safe alternative” and lower the risk of black market-related drug deaths – a move English flatly rejected today.

Stuff: Police, coroner investigating multiple synthetic cannabis deaths: ‘further people are going to die’

“If we don’t do something about this, further people are going to die,” Detective Inspector Gary Lendrum said at a press conference on Friday afternoon.

“We’ve got reports of 13-year-olds right through to 64-year-olds using this product, so it’s right across New Zealand, and right across society.”

Labour leader Andrew Little said the reports were “incredibly disturbing”.

“I know police are saying they’re going to conduct an investigation – the Minister of Health has got to be involved in that. We’ve got to understand what’s happened there.

“It throws open the whole issue about the ability to regulate in this area and people’s safety with a substance that is constantly changing. It may well be time, even though it’s been a reasonably short period of time, for Parliament to review and revisit just what it has done in relation to synthetic cannabis.”

So politicians are expressing some concern, but there is no sign of real pressure to do something about the situation on drug supply and use and legality.

Eight people have died. Many more are at risk. This is a crisis, urgency and a lot more jumping up and down and demanding action is surely justified.

The number of deaths in a short time is out of the ordinary but deaths and the wrecking of lives has been going on for a long time.

When big business and foreign trade was at stake there seemed to be more concern.

Drug addicts don’t seem to matter as much to our Parliament.

However the costs are actually high. Illicit drugs cost lives, this is not new. There are substantial costs to society and to taxpayers through policing and the courts and prisons and the health system. Drug abuse impacts on individuals and families and work productivity.

Poisoning by drugs has a massive human and financial cost.

After eight deaths in a short period of time surely our politicians should be motivated to do much more than make noises and then go back to kicking the cannabis can down the road.

All parties should be doing more.

But in particular Bill English and National have to step up. For too long they have left Peter Dunne to cop all the flak on drug problems and copped out of responsibility themselves, but the fact is that Dunne has done much more than any other MP to try and promote change in the way we deal with drug supply and abuse. Dunne has only one vote against National’s 59, and Parliament’s 120.

If there was ever a time for a Prime Minister to step up on an issue surely eight deaths is enough to prompt some leadership.

Leave a comment


  1. Alan Wilkinson

     /  28th July 2017

    Excellent post, PG. As usual drug prohibition successfully turns a minor issue into a disaster.

    • Gezza

       /  28th July 2017

      👍🏼 Wot you said! Absolutely.

      And I give credit to Hon Peter Dunne on his comments.

      • Kitty Catkin

         /  28th July 2017

        It’s a meaningless comparison.

        The milk threat was potentially lethal to anyone who used the poisoned milk. There are far more babies drinking this product than there are drug users. The man who threatened to do this would, had he carried out his threat, have killed thousands of babies here and abroad. The babies don’t buy and drink milk formula voluntarily to get stoned.

        The poisoned drugs are not a weapon of mass murder or there would be many more deaths-the makers want their customers to be alive and paying for the drugs, they don’t want dead ones who are no further use to them.

        As the makers are not fools enough to advertise who they are, it’s anyone’s guess. The dead peopl can’t tell.

        The horrible thing is that there are so many fools who are willing to spend money and risk their lives for this type of drug.

        And I wouldn’t expect the police to be stupid enough to give details of what they are doing-that would be giving advance warning to the makers and sellers.

  2. Patzcuaro

     /  28th July 2017

    I see little chance of a social conservative Bill English doing much in this area.

    • Kitty Catkin

       /  28th July 2017

      What can he do ?

      It isn’t possible to have a police officer in every street in the country. The sellers are not going to sell this stuff when the police are there. The first time that anyone knows that someone has taken the drug is when they show the effects-by which time the seller is nowhere in sight.

      How about blaming the sellers and those who make these drugs-and the people who know that they are doing it ? The chances of them doing it with nobody knowing about it are non-existent. (nobody whom they know, I mean)

      • Patzcuaro

         /  28th July 2017

        Currently you can grow your on tobacco, brew your own alcohol, so why can’t you grow your own cannabis.

        • Gezza

           /  28th July 2017

          Well … you can … but … you musn’t be caught. And I agree with your point. If it wasn’t illegal & if it’s just for personal use, you are at least able to control its potency.

        • Kitty Catkin

           /  29th July 2017

          You can, but you may not.

  3. Bill

     /  28th July 2017

    There’s little doubt that Bill English is out of his depth when it comes to dealing with social issues, he has as much chance of implementing sound drug policy, as he has of winning dancing with the stars.
    Yes Mr English, make it the Police’ responsibility to pick up the pieces of all failed social policy, after all in a rock star economy many rock stars choke to death on their own vomit.

    • Kitty Catkin

       /  28th July 2017

      That is a silly analogy.

      Who are the rock stars here ?

    • Inane comment. English and his hobby horse policy Social Investment clearly demonstrates you’re talking out of hole below your bell button. he is clearly focused on solving things long term based on faced base and what works, not the socialist prescription throwing taxpayers money at their mates in NGO’s to maybe help or maybe not help…

      The failed social policy is the everyone is equal, and every sob story is real approach of socialism in its many and vary guises…

  4. Kevin

     /  28th July 2017

    “Because it’s just drug users (and isn’t a threat to business?) this doesn’t appear to be much of a concern to other parties.”

    I don’t think the government really cares, at least on a subconscious level.

    Thing is anybody who accepts a joint from someone, whether at a party or wherever, is at risk, because you never know whether that joint contains real cannabis or the deadly fake stuff.

    So far the only people who have died have been ones at the bottom of the heap – the homeless, vagabonds etc. But watch the government turn 360 on this issue when some Remuera housewife’s kid gets carted to the mortuary. And you know its true.

    • Kitty Catkin

       /  28th July 2017

      I don’t know that it’s true at all. For all we know, this may have happened already.

      Of course the government cares-but as no government anywhere seems to be able to stop this scourge, I can’t see that ours will be able to, either. They and the police must be working blind. The sniper comparison is also meaningless. A sniper will be seen-they can be isolated-these sellers can’t be. Ring the police ? Yes, the seller will wait around to be caught, bag of drugs in hand for all to see.

      Carrying a stash of drugs is a lot easier than carrying a rifle.

      I wonder if the people who abuse the government on this one have any brilliant solutions themselves.

      • @kck
        Obviously there is no simple solution.. BUT as I & others have said MANY times; if NZ stopped the B-S & caught up to: Canada, USA, Aust., much of EU etc. (ie most of OECD) & actually decrim./regulate the NATURAL herb, most people would not bother with ‘synthetic (poison) cannabis’ which contain NO THC/CBDs

        BUT the Natz have made it clear that they support only the status quo !
        WHY ?? The WAR on Drugs IS a Failure.. most rational minds accept this
        the definition of Insanity; repeating something over & over, expecting a different outcome. They have known this at least since 1933, when Alcohol prohibition in USA was repealed, for the same reasons; it created a black-market & did almost nothing to stop the manufacture & use. (‘bathtube gin’ etc.)

        • NATZZZZZZZZ its all the NATTTTTZZZZZZZZ fault. Jeez do every stop and read what you write Zedd?

          Nine years of Helen propped up by the Greens and what did they do about grass legalisation????

          Sweet eff all. Nandor the Rasta was in the house – and zipp from the Greens…nada, no a bean, couldn’t.get.anything.done.

          But Zedd says I and I blame the NATTTTZZZZZ…. what a crock full of steaming brown that is from you Zedd.

          IF marijuana reform was SO damn important to NZers then the ALCP would have got into the house…… they have not even been close….

          • @Dave1924

            Oh Dear.. did I cut a bit close to the bone ?

            Whilst most of the OECD are decrim./regulating Natural Cannabis.. this Govt. are promoting Synthetic poisons & saying its ‘low risk’

            btw; IF its such a non-issue why is it in the news most days ?
            esp. when these ‘drugs’ that they promoted (over the real stuff) is seeing people in A&Es or dying !

            may I suggest.. you take your blinkers off ??

            • Not close to my bone chap….. its just you are so yawningly predictable blaming the Natz for everything….. its like an addicts twitch at times….

              Why is it in the news – cause stupid people are dying…… and its 6-7 weeks to an election, so it is useful for the media to have a crack

              Z – I notice you haven’t reply to the main thrust about your beloved Greens doing ZIP about it or should that be Zippo?

            • what a load of moronic drivel.. dave

              vote natz & continue wasting time/resources on a failed war on drugs that most other oecd countries recognise & have made the effort to move on from.. but not you & others who write such b-s

            • Drivel? Moronic?

              Dude serioussssly…. is that what you got?

              Personal invective?

              Not willing to discuss the sacred Greens complete lack of action on a topic so close to your heart? haven’t they backed off it all together?

              The National Party is a conservative party, MORON – just borrowing you line of response Zedd as I am sure your not a moron as you can type, they aren’t supposed to change things like drug laws. Its your lot that are supposed to be banging the drum, and they just don’t

      • Bill

         /  28th July 2017

        It’s an undeniable fact that this government, just like all before them have only left it up to Police and our emergency health professionals to deal with drug laws set in 1975.

        “That is a silly analogy.

        Who are the rock stars here ?” That is the point Kitty, certainly not the nine dead roadies.

        • Kitty Catkin

           /  29th July 2017

          The last sentence makes no sense.

          Who do you expect to deal with the law and with idiots who make themselves ill with drugs ? The IRD ? The Ministry of Transport ?

  5. Maggy Wassilieff

     /  28th July 2017

    And now it’s 9.

    Whether or not cannabis is legalised or not, is not the issue here.

    Someone is putting a lethal poison into the public realm. This is a deliberate action to add a lethal chemical to some benign material.

    It’s just the same as Russians lacing their hooch vodka with methanol/glycol.

    • Kevin

       /  29th July 2017

      During prohibition people did die from bad hooch and looking back most of us would blame prohibition and not say they shouldn’t have chosen to have a drink.

      Drugs being laced or substituted with something else is nothing new. Heroin gets laced with Fentanyl, the MDMA in Ecstasy gets substituted with PMA and in some cases other drugs like methamphetamine gets added, and LSD gets substituted with deadly synthetic LSD. The question is what do you do to prevent it.

      Certainly you do all you can do catch the people doing it but what I’m talking about is prevention.

      None of the above would happen if we didn’t have prohibition.

      One option is to double down. Do all you can to get illegal drugs off the street. We’ve been trying that for the last hundred years and how has turned out? Even before the last batch of the lethal stuff synthetic cannabis was already illegal and did that prevent the lethal stuff from hitting the street?

      The other option is legalisation and regulation. Kill the market for deadly drugs. In Holland where cannabis is legally available there is no market of synthetic cannabis, none. And that’s basically Dunne’s argument as well. Given the choice between natural cannabis legally bought from a “coffee” shop or synthetic cannabis bought off the street most people would choose the later. And with no market to sell to there’s no incentive for anyone to put lethal synthetic cannabis onto the street.

  6. You rolls the dice to get high, buying from scumbags you barely know….. and you get cheap, adulterated shit…..

    Sorry zero sympathy.

    I’m all for legalisation for personal use – fill your boots but I really don’t care about junkies and addicts tapping out – especially when people try to make it all the governments fault….personal choice – personal consequences..

    • Bill

       /  29th July 2017

      Hey dave you unwittingly pointed out the same solution as the NZ DRUG FOUNDATION.

      ” You rolls the dice to get high, buying from scumbags you barely know….. and you get cheap, adulterated shit…..”

      “I’m all for legalisation for personal use ” Your words are the same as the PRO LEGALISATION LOBBY has been saying for years, they just don’t deliver it with the hate part.

      If it’s not the Governments role to repeal the 42 year old misuse of drugs act dave, is it some low life scumbags job ? This is about how we got to this point as much as the deaths.

      • Not unwittingly Bill – but nice little dig.

        My take here is simple – I am a liberal drugs. They are not for me personal beyond a little alcohol – just not my thing. But I think adults should have choice in most things,so I am for legalisatoion and regulation of drug availability & use. Stated this position many times on this blog and on others, so its not “unwittingly” stumbling on the position.

        But here’s the thing Billy….which people like you just refuse to acknowledge.

        A large part of the population are either anti-drug or are not particularly interested in the issue of legalisation….. And those people VOTE….. so NO Government, Labour or National lead, as demonstrated by the last 6 terms equally split between the 2 major parties, is interested in radical reform in the area because they have done the political calculation and see the policy changes NZDF, yourself and others want as electoral poison.

        When there is a groundswell in the voting public for change then it will occur and not before…..I “unwittingly” realise that whereas you don’t seem to

        As for the synthetic crap – its common knowledge its Russian roulette material. So I have zero sympathy for those who roll the dice and lose.

        • Kevin

           /  29th July 2017

          The ALCP are about as useful as tits on a bull. Voters look at them and don’t see a party who want to stop young people having their future ruined just because they got caught with a single joint. They don’t see a party who wants to prevent people dying from poisoned drugs. They just see a party that wants to smoke more dope.

          You’re right that most people aren’t interested in drug policy reform. That is until it hits them personally and they see the futility of sending someone before a judge on a minor drug charge. Plus people are scared. Decades of prohibition propaganda
          has made people believe that any liberalisation means our streets will be flooded with drugs and drug abusers and society will collapse.

          I’m willing to bet though that more than a few politicians are sympathetic to drug reform . They just don’t want to be seen as pro-drug so as to not scare off voters so they will pre-face what they say with “I’m not for legalisation but I think there’s room to …”

          Drug reform needs to been done slowly. I would start with extending the laws that apply to alcohol to apply to any psychoactive substances. Get caught with a joint in public? Then you get charged not only under the Misuse of Drugs Act but also with possession of a psychoactive substance in a public place. Obviously same thing would apply with driving.

          Under the Misuse of Drugs Act there is no distinction between dealing to minors and dealing to adults. I would add much tougher sentences for dealing to minors and those penalties would stay even after dealing to adults is legalised.

          Next I would legalise the selling and consumption of drugs but restricted to certain places. So for example you would be able to buy and consume cannabis but only at Dutch-style coffee-houses.

          Then once people get used to the idea that most people who use drugs are responsible then you roll out more liberalisation, allow people to consume at home etc.

          • valid approach Kevin… well thought out. But it needs to come from the ground up and when it builds enough in public opinion then a politician will pick it up…

          • Bill

             /  29th July 2017

            I totally agree ALCP are useless as a political party Kevin, but this is not really the only group calling for change is it. We have members bills from Labour,the Greens,TOP and even Peter Dunne has come on board, not to mention Winston promising a referendum. There’s also groups like NZDF, Grey power, Massey and numerous polls of 70% showing support for change.

        • Conspiratoor

           /  29th July 2017

          And that Dave, is why Darwin has had his original treatise elevated from theory to law. If the human species is to survive the gene pool must be purged. Charles is simply calling these folks home

  7. Another issue; IF you get natural herb, you can usually tell what it is by the smell. These Synthetics do not smell/taste the same & the effect is not ‘just the same’ either. BUT listening to hearsay/misinfo. from some commentators, you would think they are much the same.. ‘Ignorance is bliss’ (obviously)

    Just because you dont use the herb, is this a reason to stop other Adults from choosing to do so.. as with Alcohol in 1920s USA, it did not stop it, but just made things even worse ?!


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