Ardern still very disappointing on drug problems

The Labour led coalition government has been very disappointing with it’s lack of urgency apparent lack of understanding of drug problems. And people with some expertise on drug issues are also getting exasperated.

Jacinda Ardern seems to be leading the problems.

Russell Brown (@publicaddress):

Gawd. Sort yourself out, Prime Minister. This doesn’t help anyone – and apart from anything else, it’s completely unnecessary.

Real talk: Labour has spent long enough chanting “drugs are a health issue”. It needs to take the basic step of identifying an MP (it’s maybe even better if it’s *not* a minister) who can own the drug policy issue and provide a coherent, informed voice. Ginny Anderson maybe?

Minister of Health David Clark has also been disappointing on the drug issue – he doesn’t even need to be the leas minister, under the last government an Associate Minister of Health dealt with drugs.

Rookie backbench MP Chloe Swarbrick has been trying to get things happening but even her Green party don’t see any urgency, as people keep dying, especially as a result of synthetic drug use.

Despite her efforts Swabrick doesn’t seem to be getting very far.

Greens push but Government tardy addressing synthetic drug toll

Deaths from synthetics is the tip of a growing drug toll iceberg. Greens, Chlöe Swarbrick in particular, keep pushing for action but the Government seems slow to do anything about it.

Last week (ODT) About 50 deaths linked to synthetics being investigated

A coroner has ruled that using synthetic drugs led to the deaths of two men – and is investigating whether the deadly substance played a part in up to 50 other fatal incidents.

Findings were released today into the deaths of Taupo man Isaiah Terry McLaughlin and Shannon James Thomas Coleman-Fallen from Rotorua.

Both deaths were directly linked to synthetic drugs.

There are currently about 50 deaths nationally which the coroner’s officer says “provisionally appear to be attributable to synthetic cannabis toxicity”.

Today (Newsroom): Further deaths from synthetics

The number of deaths believed to be caused by synthetics has risen to as many as 50, with the coroner releasing detailed findings into two more deaths caused by the drugs – and repeating a call for a change in approach to users and easier access to addiction treatment.

Health Minister David Clark is currently working on a strategy to combat the problem, but the National Party is accusing the Government of dragging its feet while New Zealanders die.

Meanwhile, the Green Party is continuing to advocate for regulation rather than prohibition, as the drug argument rages on.

Swarbrick in Parliament:

Newsroom:

Health Minister David Clark said any death as a result of drug use was a tragedy.

“The Government is taking the synthetic drugs issue very seriously – these drugs are killing people.”

They were killing people when Clark became Minister of Health a year ago.

Health, Police, Customs and Corrections were working together on the issue, while Government – led by Clark – looked at the question of reclassification, Clark said.

A decision from Cabinet is expected in the coming weeks, he said.

‘In the coming weeks’ will be heading into the Christmas shutdown of Parliament.

“It’s important to acknowledge that there is no silver bullet. We need to treat drugs, including synthetics, as a health issue.

“Our focus is harm reduction and reducing the supply of synthetics, rather than simply criminalising people using these drugs.”

But how? Last month: Greens say Health Minister’s plan to reclassify common synthetic drugs a ‘costly war, destined to fail’

The Government are working towards labelling common types of synthetic cannabis as a Class A drug “as soon as possible”, however the Green Party are warning against a “costly war on synthetic drugs that is destined to fail”.

“People who make synthetics are constantly changing the compounds and chemicals, it’s impossible to know what’s in these drugs,” Green Party drug law reform spokesperson Chlöe Swarbrick said.

“If our plan is to classify every synthetic product then we’ll be playing catch up every time manufacturers change the chemicals.”

“We can choose to carry on with a failed war on drugs, or take a more sensible route and look at the causes and health impacts of addiction and treat those instead.”

It comes after Health Minister David Clark said making common types of synthetic drugs Class A “enables police to have greater search and seizure powers”.

“We’re aiming to do this as soon as possible.”

Past Associate Minister of Health Peter Dunne recognised the futility of trying to classify and control synthetic drugs years ago, and came up with a solution that was agreed to by Parliament, but National chickened out in reaction to media sensationalising of short term problems.

Newsroom:

Earlier this week, the Drug Foundation released an economic impact report, which found reforming the country’s “punitive” drug laws – including the decriminalisation of all drugs and introduction of a legal market for cannabis – would benefit the country by at least $450 million a year.

The report, produced by economist Shamubeel Eaqub says there would be a net social benefit of at least $225m from investing an extra $150m in addiction treatment, drug education, and harm reduction interventions.

It estimates there would be a net social benefit of $34m to $83m from replacing the Misuse of Drugs Act, passed in 1975, with a new law based on a health-based approach to the issue.

Creating a legal, regulated market for the purchase of cannabis would bring $185m to $240m in new tax revenue while also saving the justice sector $6m to $13m.

The Health Ministry is a huge task for any minister, and Clark has struggled to deal with everything. In a change from the last Government the responsibility for the problems with drugs use and abuse was given to the Minister. Under the National government an Associate Minister dealt with drug issues.

Clark doesn’t seem to be giving the problems with synthetic drugs the urgency required (that was obvious a year ago). And he seems quite cautious if not conservative when it comes to drug laws.  A radical rethink is urgently required.

Jacinda Ardern should seriously consider a reshuffle of ministerial responsibilities.

If she really wants to be a progressive Prime Minister she should consider appointing Swarbrick as an Associate health Minister (outside Cabinet) so she can focus on the urgent overhaul needed of drug laws and treating it properly as a health issue that requires urgent attention.

 

 

Swarbrick putting Ardern, Clark to shame on drug rhetoric and inaction

There are serious and growing drug problems in new Zealand, especially with P (methamphetamine) and synthetic substitutes for cannabis. I have slammed the Government for being shamefully lame as people suffer and die- see  Clark, Ardern shamefully lame not urgently addressing drug problems.

Green MP Chlöe Swarbrick seems to be a lone voice amongst MPs on taking urgent and effective action (where is James Shaw on this?)

thinks quite a lot::

The War on Drugs has not and will not work. Moral crusades are costing lives. Nowhere in the world has been able to get rid of drugs, or reduce drug harm, by ratcheting up penalties.

With the synthetics crisis, Aotearoa New Zealand has an crucial decision: will we do what works, or will we just do “something”?

The easy “something” is to beat the punitive drum, in an attempt to satisfy people we “take this seriously.” Taking drug harm seriously looks like being brave enough to confront decades of evidence and genuinely treat drugs as a health issue.

Treating drugs as a health issue does not look like locking more people up. We actually have ample evidence to show that increasing penalties fills our jail cells, but doesn’t decrease access or supply to drugs.

Look to Methamphetamine, which has under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975 held Class A life imprisonment for decades. There’s been no reduction in demand or consumption, but increases, according to Ministry of Health data.

Evidence demonstrates that the only real way to tackle drugs is to focus on decreasing demand. We have a successful model in the collaboration between Northland DHB&Police, reducing demand for P, shifting resources to health, which we could expand and roll out across the country.

We need to do something, but that something desperately needs to be what works. If we cow to law-and-order rhetoric, if we fail to be courageous enough to pay attention to the research, we’ll repeat our past mistakes.

Repeating our past mistakes is more than not good enough when the evidence shows more of the same will cost people’s lives. Especially when those unnecessary deaths are the catch-cry of those calling for knee-jerk criminalisation.

The believe we need to genuinely treat drugs as a health issue. That looks like ending the War on Drugs. That looks like rejecting greater penalisation, which we all know, because the evidence shows, just won’t work.

Swarbrick could do with more concerted support from other Green MPs on this.

And somehow they need to push Ardern into converting her lofty rhetoric into actual and urgent action. Not just talking about twiddling a bit some time in the future. Urgent reform is required.

Ardern has talked about her government being progressive and wonderful, but she and her ministers are failing to walk the walk on drugs.

Swarbrick is putting them to shame.

Synthetic drug supplier bill passes first reading

National MP Simeon Brown’s Member’s Bill that proposes a quadrupling of maximum prison sentences (to eight years) for suppliers of synthetic drugs  passed it’s first reading today, with the support of NZ First.

I replied to that:

It’s addressing the wrong problem the wrong way. It might crowd prisons a bit more but doesn’t address the core problems that all parties keep avoiding, drug laws that are failing badly.

Drug Foundation:  Clearing the air on ‘synthetic cannabis’: a primer

Executive summary:

  • Synthetic cannabinoids appeared in Europe in 2005 and the following year in New Zealand.
  • The chemicals in illicit smoking packets in 2017 are different to – and very likely more dangerous than – those on the market before the Psychoactive Substances Act 2013, and those briefly regulated under the Act.
  • The recent “bad batch” in Auckland is likely to be “bad” because of the way it’s dosed, rather than the presence of impurities or contaminants.
  • The wave of acute ED presentations and deaths in Auckland is not a nationwide problem. Even in Auckland, detox and services are seeing fewer people dependent on synthetic cannabis than they were in 2014.
  • Acute presentations have come in waves in other countries too.
  • Legalising natural cannabis now isn’t likely to be a magic wand.

The synthetic drug crisis

Killer chemicals – Inside NZ’s synthetic cannabis crisis

At least 20 people have died after smoking synthetic cannabis, but where is the community outrage and Government action plan?

In part one of a two-part series, we reveal the human toll of a killer drug.

Anika used to enjoy making art, before she became a slave to synthetic cannabis.

Then all she cared about was finding money to buy “synnies”.

She’s only 21, yet death stalked her.

Her friend, Michael, says: “I describe it as a zombie drug because the actual description of a zombie is the walking dead – they die, get up and they start hunting food.”

Where is the public outcry?

Ironically the current situation has come about because of a public outcry over the sale of synthetics after a law change to try and bring them under control, so the Government backed down.

This may have avoided becoming an election issue because all parties may be in part culpable.

Ducking for cover lest they lose some votes (losing lives doesn’t seem to be as important to them).

 

Prohibition has driven synthetic drugs

Prohibition of drugs, especially the relatively low-harm natural cannabis, has driven the creation of a huge number of ‘legal highs’ or ‘novel psychoactive substances’ (NPS) – the European Drug Monitoring Center has identified more than 602 different NPS, with 101 new NPS emerging during 2014.

Transform: Prohibiting drugs has ironically only created more drugs: the world against the NPS problem

The ‘legal’ NPS market has largely emerged in response to demand for the effect the drugs provide in the context of historic prohibitions on such products. When legal products arrive that compare favourably to their illegal counterparts in terms of effect, risk, quality and price—it is unsurprising that they become popular, and can, to some extent, displace some illegal drugs.

This phenomenon, and the specific challenges created by the rapid emergence of multiple NPS with unknown risk profiles occurs largely because of the lack of legal availability of more familiar and well understood drugs such as cannabis, ecstasy/MDMA and even cocaine.

Drug prohibition has pushed the creation of legal alternatives, which are a safer way to make money but generally a less safe way to use drugs.

There would have been, for example, no demand in Western markets for the synthetic NPS cannabis mimics if their(much safer and less potent) natural cousin had been legally available.

If the last 50 years teach us anything it is that whilst demand remains for a particular drug (or drug effect), the profit opportunity created means that the market will always find a way to meet it—whether legal or illegal.

Most countries have been slow to recognise this and deal with it more effectively.

Just as the emergence of NPS is an unintended consequence of historic prohibitions, so prohibiting a particular NPS can then have significant unintended consequences. Especially when demand for a given substance has been established, a ban is likely to have one or more of the following impacts;

  • Creating a void in the legal NPS market into which one or more new substance will move (the net health impacts of which are impossible to predict);
  • Diverting users back to the illegal substances the NPS are likely to have been a substitute for (exposing users to the risk of the illegal market and criminalisation over and above the risks of the drug use);
  • or leading to the emergence of criminal market for the formerly legal NPS—in which it is likely that the quality (in terms of purity and reliability) of the product decreases and the cost increases.

All of these phenomena have been witnessed with attempts to ban successive waves of NPS in Western markets.

Attempts to ban new variants as they appeared was tried unsuccessfully in New Zealand.

The NPS phenomenon therefore presents a huge challenge for policy makers. The unregulated legal markets for NPS are clearly not acceptable, but at the same time it seems clear that prohibitions will, as so often before, only make things worse.

There is, therefore, an urgent need to explore regulated market options that occupy the middle ground between total prohibition and unregulated free markets.

We tried to do this in New Zealand with a new approach that was observed with interest by other countries.

This is the road taken by New Zealand which in 2013 passed the ‘Psychoactive Substances Act’, which allows certain “lower- risk” NPS to be legally produced and sold within a strict regulatory framework.

The new law puts the onus on producers to establish the risks of the products they wish to sell, as well as mandating a minimum purchase age of 18; a ban on advertising, except at point of sale; restrictions on which outlets can sell NPS products; and labelling and packaging requirements.

But after passing legislation the Government buckled under public and media pressure.

The New Zealand government stated: “We are doing this because the current situation is untenable. Current legislation is ineffective in dealing with the rapid growth in synthetic psychoactive substances which can be tweaked to be one step ahead of controls. Products are being sold without any controls over their ingredients, without testing requirements, or controls over where they can be sold”.

The new law remains in place, but has run into a number of technical challenges – crucially, how to establish ‘“low-risk” harm thresholds without using animal testing – as well as political opposition. As yet no NPS are regulated under the system – but it has at least demonstrated that another way is possible.

After the legislation came into effect, leaving some NPS legally available media publicity about the perceptions created by concentrating availability in much fewer outlets led to political pressure and the Government wimped out.

But this only came about because successive governments and just about every political party (with the exception of the Cannabis Party (ALCP) have kept wimping out over addressing the bigger problem – that continuing prohibition on far less risky drugs, especially cannabis is driving the use of NPS.

And prohibition of cannabis is likely to be a factor in the increased use of harder and far more addictive drugs like methamphetamine.

Methamphetamine is an extremely addictive, powerful stimulant. It produces wakefulness, hyperactivity and a euphoric effect. Methamphetamine is also known as speed, pure, P, burn, goey, crank, meth, crystal, ice and yaba.

Importers, producers and distributors of illegal drugs are taking a risk, so it figures that they will try to make as much money as they can to make the risk worth it.

And drug users are also taking a risk. With cannabis being illegal it will make it easier to push susceptible people onto harder drugs like P – profit margins are far higher, with the bonus of it being easy to addict customers to the products, so casual users become regular self abusers.

Hard drug addicts often resort to crime to finance their habits. Pushers don’t care about this, just as they don’t care about ruining people’s lives so they can make money.

Even cannabis is a problem when illegal, because in an uncontrolled illegal market suppliers push for maximum use for maximum profit.

If relatively safe drugs like cannabis were not illegal and could be obtained in a controlled market, or self produced, then more people attracted to psychoactive substances could use them with far lower risks.

It wouldn’t be a simple solution, because those accustomed to making money off other people’s misery would try to expand their hard drug markets if their soft drug markets were stripped away. But it would provide a less bad (and legal) option for those who want to use drugs other than alcohol.

It’s not just cannabis that is a safer alternative.

More dangerous addictive drugs have become prevalent after earlier safer hallucinogens were replaced.

Remember LSD (Lysergic acid diethylamide). It had adverse side effects, but compared to other drugs it was relatively benign – it isn’t addictive, and:

Of the 20 drugs ranked according to individual and societal harm by David Nutt, LSD was third to last, approximately 10 times less harmful than alcohol. The most significant adverse effect was impairment of mental functioning while intoxicated.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lysergic_acid_diethylamide#Adverse_effects

We have ended up with LSD and cannabis illegal, a scourge of far more dangerous and addictive drugs like cocaine and methamphetamine being pushed for profit, and huge societal and health problems with the promotion and overuse of our one legal recreational drug, alcohol.

But this situation looks unlikely to change markedly. On drugs our governments, our politicians and our political parties are wimps.

Soros versus NZ on war against drugs

George Soros promotes drug policy reform and harm reduction causes…

Billionaire business magnate and philanthropist George Soros—who has long bankrolled drug policy reform and harm reduction causes—has published an op-ed in today’s Financial Times. It’s in support of a new report from the London School of Economics, which is signed by five winners of the Nobel Prize for economics and calls for an end the international War on Drugs.

Soros describes the report as “the most thorough account of the war on drugs” to date. Authored by some of the world’s top economists, it outlines the far-reaching damages wrought by international counter-narcotics efforts, and recommends that governments give top priority to evidence-based drug policies, moving away from prohibition and towards harm reduction. With this message, Soros writes: “I heartily concur.”

“For more than four decades, governments around the world have pumped huge sums of money into ineffective and repressive anti-drug efforts,” he continues. “These have come at the expense of programs that actually work such as needle exchanges and substitution therapy. This is not just a waste of money, it is counterproductive.” Soros is the founder of Open Society Foundations, which has done extensive work in promoting harm reduction programs.

But Soros believes “change is still possible” and hopes the new LSE report could herald a new direction in global drug policy. He writes: “We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to fix a broken global framework for coping with the drug crisis. The costs of doing nothing are too great to bear.”

Source: http://www.substance.com/george-soros-weighs-in-against-the-war-on-drugs/
Hat Tip @NZDrug NZ Drug Foundation

…while New Zealand’s Parliament vote last night to effectively ban synthetic drugs and continue a futile war against drugs.

Warning as legal highs become illegal

The Government is warning of heavy penalties for selling, making or possessing synthetic drugs after the deadline of midnight tonight, when all remaining products will be stripped from shelves.

Parliament yesterday began debating an emergency law change under urgency, which will ban all remaining party pills and synthetic cannabis until a rigorous testing regime is in place.

It will come into effect tomorrow at 12.01am.

Health Minister Tony Ryall said that at this point, all interim approvals for psychoactive drugs would be revoked, remaining products would be recalled and retail licences would be cancelled.

“It will also become illegal to possess these products, so anyone thinking of stocking up … should bear that in mind.”

The penalty for possessing a small amount of a psychoactive substance is a $500 fine.

New Zealand seems to be changing in the wrong direction, repeating the failures of the past.

George Soros in the Financial Times:

ODT on legal highs and cannabis

The Otago Daily Times has several features on legal highs and cannabis today.

Pair’s lives ruled by legal highs

Nathan Belcher and Aaron Macahan started using legal highs because that was what everyone else was doing.

But by the time they realised how it badly it was affecting them, it was too late.

The pair could ”easily” smoke four or five bags a day – each.

At $25 a packet, they estimate they spent $7000 on the products just this year.

Their lives followed a pattern of eating, using legal highs and sleeping. 

At their lowest, they were collecting bits of rusty metal from the foreshore, taking them to scrap yards for money – they would steal anything to fund the habit.

After a two-and-a-half-year addiction, Nathan’s health has seriously deteriorated and about three weeks ago, he vowed to ditch the habit.

Suffering kidney problems after four years of using legal highs, his friend Aaron decided to quit with him.

Legal-high retailers facing zone threat

Some Dunedin legal-high retailers could be stubbed out if a substantial exclusion zone is adopted by city councillors.

The Psychoactive Substances Act – passed by Parliament last year – means local authorities can draft a locally approved product policy (Lapp).

Dunedin City Council liquor licensing and project officer Kevin Mechen told the Otago Daily Times his draft Lapp included ”exclusion zones”.

The draft was set to go before a council workshop by the end of the month, with details ”to be teased out” by councillors, he said.

If a 100m exclusion zone was set – as in the draft policy – then at least two of the eight legal-high retailers now licensed to ply their trade in Dunedin would be affected.

An exclusion zone of 200m could potentially affect four other businesses.

Price parity with cannabis proposed

A report on synthetic cannabis recommends a raft of changes, including that the products be priced the same as cannabis.

The report, ”Synthetic Cannabinoid Use in New Zealand: Assessing the harms”, was by Dunedin-based researcher Dr Geoff Noller and commissioned by the Star Trust, on behalf of the legal-high industry.

Recommendations for the industry include highlighting the low level of harm with the product compared to alcohol, and working with local bodies and the health sector.

The report also recommended monitoring internet sales, particularly in relation to under-age consumers, and implementing minimum pricing to avoid increased consumption.

”Prices should be comparable with raw cannabis.”

”In a market where the alternative product [raw cannabis] costs almost three times as much and is illegal … the option of a legal much cheaper alternative is generally more than attractive … but particularly so for young people likely to have less disposable cash.”

Research suggested that more than 95% of synthetic cannabis consumers were likely to have previously consumed raw cannabis.

”It seems prudent that until synthetic products can clearly be shown to be less harmful than raw cannabis, the price of synthetics should not be lower than for raw cannabis.”

 

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.

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.