Synthetic ‘cannabis’ crisis

I don’t think that what is referred to as ‘synthetic cannabis’ is cannabis, as I understand it it is plant material laced with a wide variety of drugs.

One of the problems is that users often have no idea what drugs they are taking. Another is not doing how potent any drugs are.

There has been an outbreak of deaths and admissions to hospital due to the use and abuse of synthetic concoctions.

RNZ: Synthetic cannabis crisis: ‘We need to be working together on this’

Police are being accused of failing to pass on crucial information about synthetic cannabis to those who are dealing with the drug at the coal face.

The death toll has risen to eight after a 24-year-old man suspected of taking the drug died at Middlemore Hospital last night.

Police had known about a very strong kind of synthetic cannabis being used, called AMB-FUBINACA, for over a year now but only recently shared information about it with other organisations, Drug Foundation chief executive Ross Bell said.

READ MORE:Synthetic Cannabis: The killer high

The cannabinoid was more than 75 times more potent that THC, the active ingredient in natural cannabis, and over the past year had become the most commonly detected type of cannabinoid in its lab, ESR Forensic Chemistry Manager Kevan Walsh said.

“It’s gained some notoriety overseas… some have referred to it as a zombie drug,” he said.

The results of ESR’s testing were passed to the police, who were its clients, and it was up to them to share the information, Mr Walsh said.

However, police said they could not always share information if it related to coronial investigations or if it was before the court.

Mr Bell said that needed to change, especially in times of a public health crisis.

“There does need to be a clear protocol or process in place where that very important information is made more widely available to people like us, or drug treatment agencies, when the police make these discoveries, rather than sitting on the information,” he said.

Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne agreed information between police and other authorities -including himself – needed to improve.

He said an emergency response unit was being set up between Auckland health authorities and police to try and and get a handle on the situation.

“There’s certainly been a problem in getting the information from police. I was a little surprised to get less than a couple of hours notice of their announcement last Friday. There’s been no contact with my office at all on this.”

“We need to be working together on this,” he said.

A special incident response unit is being set up at the Auckland District Health Board in conjunction with police, to try and get a handle on what synthetic cannabis products are being used and how it can be stopped, Mr Dunne said.

Auckland Police said they still had no idea where the drug was coming from and were asking for the public’s help.

Acting Detective Inspector Peter Florence said it was “a big worry” that people were taking synthetic cannabis.

NZ Herald:  Synthetic cannabis ‘worse than meth’ according to addiction specialist

A drug counsellor says the effects of synthetic cannabis can be worse than meth, with users kept up for days and sometimes being driven into psychosis.

Clinical director of Alcohol & Drug Assessment & Counselling (ADAC) Roger Brooking said the drug was far stronger than most users realised.

“It tends to keep them awake for days on end, much like methamphetamine does.

“My experience would be that it drives people psychotic, or at least in that direction, more quickly than methamphetamine.

“It’s a lot more addictive than the plant cannabis, it has no business being called cannabis.

“Normal cannabis, it’s kind of psychologically addictive, but not physically addictive.

“But the synthetic chemicals being used seem to be a lot more addictive, and once people start they find it very hard to stop.”

This has become a major and dangerous issue, and again raises the question of why natural cannabis is still illegal. It has it’s own risks but it is far better known and far l;ess a risk than many other drugs.

Brooking believed there needed to be big changes to stop the problem getting any worse, including decriminalising cannabis.

“I mean, if I was in charge of this I’d decriminalise all illicit drugs, as they have in Portugal.

“Because these drugs are illegal, when people use them and get caught they get steered into the justice system instead of getting steered into the health system.

“For the average user, these cause health problems rather than legal problems.

“If cannabis was decriminalised, people wouldn’t have to go looking for some of these other substances.”

But the National led government has been strongly against relaxing laws on cannabis.

Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne agreed that a “significant part” of problem was that synthetic cannabis was banned, and then driven underground.

He said he had spoken to Prime Minister Bill English about the idea of regulating the drug, and would “keep the discussion going”.

“Had we had a regulated market in place, this stuff would have had to be submitted for testing before being sold.

“Because its been driven underground we don’t know what it is, it’s not being tested, and we’re dealing with consequences. We’re playing catch-up all over again.

“There are so many new psychoactive substances coming down the pipeline, whether this is a blip or the start of a flood, we just don’t know.”

We will forever be reacting to the adverse effects of illegal drug use unless we take a different approach to cannabis.

Treating prisoners as shit

Roger Brooking posted on Brookingblog (what justice looks like from the inside – and the need for prison reform’) Prisoners aren’t really human – so torture and scalping are fine:

Three weeks ago, the Ombudsman Peter Boshier, issued a report which said the Corrections Department had been tying difficult prisoners to their beds for up to 16 hours a day.

That’s a pretty serious allegation.  Section 3 of this Act, says that anyone who commits an act of torture in New Zealand can be sent to prison for up to 14 years. If it’s that serious an offence, you’d think the media would be up in arms, the police would take immediate action and the prison managers who allowed this mistreatment to take place would be prosecuted.

But that didn’t happen of course. Ray Smith assured the public that the matters were “fully investigated and appropriate action taken”.  You must be joking.  One prison officer was fired (for assaulting a prisoner who was already tied down). No one was prosecuted for torture and the media lost interest in the story two days later.

Why? Because the victims of these crimes are prisoners; and for the last 20 years or so, with the willing help of the media, the Sensible Sentencing Trust and most MPs have successfully depicted prisoners as something less than human.

The treatment of prisoners is not a vote winner for politicians or adequate click bait for media.

As such, they don’t seem to have any rights. Well that’s certainly what Labour MP, Stuart Nash, seems to think. After hearing last week that the High Court said convicted murderer, Phillip John Smith, had the right to wear a toupee in prison, Nash pushed his unrestrained mind into overdrive and posted a message on Facebook claiming “He has no rights!!”

He went on to suggest other inmates should scalp Mr Smith. This is what he wrote:

“Scalping is associated with American Indians but it was actually started by Europeans. Perhaps someone in jail who isn’t too fond of monsters who destroy little boys’ lives by stealing their innocence in the worst way possible could reintroduce Mr Smith to the practice.”

Labour’s ‘Spokesperson for Police’ is suggesting, perhaps encouraging or inciting, prison violence.

Posting an incitement to violence on Facebook is a potential breach of section 22 of the Harmful Digital Communication Act.

This got a lot less attention in media than some criticism of Jacinda Ardern in Parliament’s General Debate, a forum that is full of political criticisms.

The Standard ran three posts over several days lashing the critics of Ardern, with a slew of commenters skewering the nasty Nats. There was one comment thread on Nash’s comments initiated by ‘James’, with several responders effectively supporting Nash.

The final comment on the thread, from  ‘bwaghorn’: “skelping is to good for him , lethal injection would solve his hair problem”. That was not criticised.

At Kiwiblog David Farrar posted Nash says scalp Smith in which he was critical of a lack of condemnation from Labour, but no criticism of Nash’s comments.

Comments and ticks were strongly in support of what Nash said, until ‘fernglas’ posted “It’s a worry when an MP, and Police spokesman, can assert that a person, however vile, has no rights, and then go on to encourage someone to cause that person GBH. More populist politics from those who should be responsible for upholding the rule of law.”

That comment received some support, but a range of views followed.

It is not surprising to see Cameron Slater post Labour still soft on crime – pulls MP back into line over paedophile remark and say “Onya Nashy. Nice to see that there are still red-blooded blokes in Labour who stand for victims and not criminals.” And more. He has a history of sounding ‘tough’ when his targets can’t respond.

I saw journalists tweet in support of Nash’s comments.

Even law professors are not immune from this insatiable need to denigrate those in prison as less than human. In an opinion piece in Pundit, Otago law professor, Andrew Geddis (below) argues that Phillip Smith does have rights, including the right to wear a toupee. But in order to show he’s not a snowflake or a bleeding-heart blouse, Geddis describes Smith as ‘a piece of shit’ – adding ‘most definitely’ for good measure.

Brooking makes fair points here.

The crime for which Phillip Smith committed in 1995 was despicable, and he had an awful record prior to that. He was convicted and imprisoned. It’s now over twenty years later, and I have no idea what Smith is like – but as a prisoner he has (or should have) rights.

The thing is – prisoners in New Zealand are barely seen as people, let alone ‘ordinary’ or ‘reasonable’.  You can say anything you like about them. It seems you can also do anything you like to them.  You can

– the list goes on.

Now you can even torture prison inmates and encourage them to scalp each other.  Except for the Ombudsman, no one in New Zealand seems to give a shit – because according to the Sensible Sentencing Trust, Stuart Nash and now a prominent law professor in New Zealand, that’s all they are.

A decent society should have a decent prison system, not matter how awful some crimes might be.

That means that prisoner rights should be seen as important, and while it is fair for MPs and others to express some displeasure and even disgust that doesn’t excuse inciting crimes against prisoners.

Some prisoners may have done shit things, but a decent society shouldn’t treat them like shit, otherwise we are not decent and we end up having a shit society.