Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: The perilous birth of the Psychoactive Substances Act

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  • Sofie Bribiesca,

    here and there. • Since Nov 2007 • 6320 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Does Soper really not know that these things have been “sold in communities” for the past decade and this this legislation sharply curtails the ability for that to happen? And does she not realise her own party voted for the bill?

    If the answer to both questions is "yes," then it's fucking appalling but can at least be remedied by someone up the campaign food chain insisting she internalize the policy briefing book (and check her facts) before opening her trap.

    The other alternative is even more appalling and a wee bit sinister -- because she's just lied to people who, however misguided on this policy question they might be, deserve better.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12046 posts Report Reply

  • Rebecca Williams, in reply to Ian Dalziel,

    i'm pretty sure that smoking anything isn't that great for humans :)

    that said, humans have been smoking and ingesting psychoactive substances for probably thousands of years, and it will continue apace, methinks.

    i applaud Peter Dunne for what he's done with this legislation. I don't applaud him for much else, although I have an impression of him as having some level of integrity (maybe he can afford it, being a bit player).

    anecdotally, we (at treatment services) are getting increased numbers of referrals for people (particularly younger people i think, it's about accessibility, although as Russell has so rightly pointed out accessibility to synthetics is / should be at an all time low!) where their chief concern is their use of synthetics, and the doctors we work with, who tend to be a reasonably rational lot, are starting to do research on what this stuff actually does to people. yes it binds to cannabinoid receptors, but it seems to actually cause more problems more quickly for more people than cannabis. there have been questions about whether or not manufacturers are including stimulants in the products, because of the number of presentations to ED where people are highly anxious, irritable, etc similar to stimulant presentations.

    further to the accessibility factor - i'm pretty sure (just an opinion) that retailers / manufacturers would not have hesitated to have sold large volumes to dealers at cut rate prices prior to the deadline last year. so I'm also sure that people can still buy various amounts of synthetics from various dealers too (although that supply might be running pretty low now). same as when BZP went the way of the dodo, i had clients for about a year saying they could buy it from dealers.

    anyway. it is all pretty interesting, and I can't wait to see the medium term effect it has on cannabis classification. I think something will change re that, in time.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 103 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    I'm actually much more sympathetic to the response than others. Not in the sense that what we see is reasonable - it clearly is not a response based in fact. But like alcohol and gambling, responsibilities that elsewhere in the world are given to government agencies have been pushed onto our local councils. In New Zealand there are 67 territorial authorities, plus local boards, many representing just several thousand people, and whose councillors only qualification is a plurality of voting adults. Each is charged with making decisions about the presence of unknown and mysterious chemicals. Unlike liquor or pokies, these are not familiar items.

    The shifting of decision-making to people who have not been resourced or given sufficient advice is one sense democratic, but it leads to a scattershot collection of local policies based on instinct rather than knowledge. An equilibrium will eventually be reached, but it seems that it will be forged through heat and noise rather than gentle accommodations.

    The People's Republic of … • Since Nov 2006 • 2136 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Ian Dalziel,

    Surely smoking wood can’t be good for humans – do the manufacturers have anything to say about that?

    I don't know what they actually use, but people who like to smoke various powders have often said that the best thing to mix them into is mullein. I wonder if this is why cannabis is often colloquially called mull.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8615 posts Report Reply

  • debunk,

    Suggest you read "'Legal high' production gathers pace" 4 June 2013 by Maria Burke in chemistryworld www.rsc.org/chemistryworld/2013/06/europe-legal-high-report-production ..these products are not as benign as comments here suggest.

    New Zealand • Since Aug 2012 • 105 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to BenWilson,

    mullein

    Figwort!
    Wasn't he in the LOTR/Flight of the Conchords?

    or was it that 'Finn'-ish band - the Mullanes??

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 5092 posts Report Reply

  • Max Coyle,

    Thankyou thankyou thankyou so much for this post Russell. I first blogged about this in October last year. This is one of the only common sense posts or articles to appear on the subject throughout the last year. Thankyou so much. (My original blogpost focused more on the manufactured media hype http://tricklenz.wordpress.com/2013/10/07/legal-highs-synthetic-outrage/ )

    Hamilton/Kirikiriroa • Since Feb 2014 • 2 posts Report Reply

  • Sofie Bribiesca, in reply to debunk,

    .these products are not as benign as comments here suggest.

    These products and others affect people differently. There is no blanket effect for humans because we are all different. Yes ,for some ,they stink and others seem to like and handle them. That is why evidence helps and hysteria doesn't . That much is simple to understand surely? Unfortunately, Cannabis gets a hard rap, and consequently legal highs have emerged . Common sense has not prevailed for Cannabis. Go figure. In my opinion.

    here and there. • Since Nov 2007 • 6320 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock, in reply to Rob Stowell,

    It’ll be nice to bring some data to the party.

    Is that even legal? :)

    There are, sadly, no plans to include a ban on the use of synthetic data. Although what is known is the subculture as the ‘success rush’ can be a euphoric experience, side effects can include hysteria, foaming at the mouth, blinkered vison, delusions, and self-hate. If you or anyone you know has been a victim of ‘astroturfing’, or ‘fact-twisting’, please seek assistance.

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2401 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to debunk,

    Suggest you read “‘Legal high’ production gathers pace” 4 June 2013 by Maria Burke in chemistryworld http://www.rsc.org/chemistryworld/2013/06/europe-legal-high-report-production

    these products are not as benign as comments here suggest.

    The article concludes with a section titled ’New Zealand leads the way,” which explains the Psychoactive Substances Bill (as it was then). And the whole thing is really about why such an approach is the rational option:

    Manufacturing NPSs is relatively simple. ‘Pharmaceutical drugs require between five and 12 steps to synthesise, whereas these need only two to three,’ explains Nichols. Treble agrees: ‘The chemical manufacturers, typically in China, can pretty much make anything you want – with no questions asked. These molecules are relatively small so they are relatively easy to make. Any competent synthetic chemist can follow the recipe.

    A stream of new psychoactive substances, all with different effects and dosages, most poorly understood – and always one to take the place of the last. At some point governments have to think about how best they can minimise public harm, and it’s pretty clear that just criminalising things as they appear isn’t going to be their most productive option.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 19019 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    There’s more coming, but for now here’s the Ministry of Health’s current Psychoactive Substances Fact Sheet:

    Since the Psychoactive Substances Act came into effect on 18 July 2013

    • Psychoactive products can no longer be sold in dairies, grocery stores, supermarkets, service stations and liquor outlets
    • Licences are required to manufacture, research, import, wholesale or retail products that contain psychoactive substances
    • There are restrictions on advertising, marketing and the purchase age (18+ years of age) of psychoactive substances
    • The number of retail outlets selling psychoactive products has reduced by 95 percent (from 3-4000 outlets to fewer than 155)
    • Over three-quarters of products for sale prior to the Act have been removed from the market
    • From an estimated 2-300 products there are now 41, and to date these have been assessed to be of low risk of harm

    The Psychoactive Substances Regulatory Authority set up under the Act

    • The Authority is responsible for issuing all licenses
    • It appoints enforcement officers who actively monitor compliance with the Act
    • The Authority monitors clinical reports on psychoactive products from the Centre for Adverse Reaction Monitoring (CARM) and the National Poisons Centre
    • An expert advisory committee made up of independent specialists in pharmacology, toxicology, drug addiction, ethics and public health has been established to approve product applications
    • To date the Authority has removed five approved products from the market after new reports showed they pose more than a low risk of harm to users

    Transitioning to regulations

    • The Authority is operating a temporary system of controls, called an ‘interim regime’ while the Government develops the set of final, detailed regulations to enforce the Act which will come into force around the middle of 2015. Until that time no new products or retail licences can be issued.
    • The new regulations will include details about the licence application processes, product approval processes, and fees

    Local government controls over where retail outlets can operate

    • The Act allows councils to work with their communities to develop local approved product policies (LAPPs) that identify where licenced retail outlets can be located within a district or city
    • The Authority is working with local governments and Local Government New Zealand to support the development of LAPPs
    • All interim retail licences are subject to any LAPP introduced in their local district or city

    Agencies involved in the regulation of psychoactive substances

    • The Police and enforcement officers based in District Health Boards work with the Authority to enforce the Act and monitor psychoactive substance manufacture, sale and use in New Zealand
    • The New Zealand Customs Service has lead responsibility for ensuring unapproved psychoactive substances do not enter New Zealand

    The objectives of the Act in summary

    • The purpose of the Act is to minimise harm by providing safe access for users to approved low risk psychoactive products. When users are confident of supply, the demand for illegal and untested drugs is likely to reduce
    • Under the Act, the Authority, enforcement officers, Customs, the Police regulate and monitor access to approved products to ensure the products pose a low risk of harm to users and the community
    • All profits are taxed, and manufacturers and suppliers will have to demonstrate that their products are safely manufactured, clinically tested and have a low risk of harm before products will be approved for sale

    Who to contact to report concerns and for help and advice

    • The community plays a vital role and the Authority needs to be made aware of party pills or synthetic cannabis being sold from dairies, convenience and grocery stores and other prohibited premises, or from any premises to anyone under the age of 18.
    • People can call the psychoactive substances hotline 0800 789 652, contact their local Police or email psychoactive@moh.govt.nz to report any concerns or seek advice about psychoactive substances
    • For advice about drug problems people can call the nationwide toll-free Alcohol Drug Helpline service on 0800 787 797 – a trained counsellor answers every call and provides advice on where to go to get further help
    • The Alcohol and Drug Association of New Zealand also has a directory of local services listed on its website www.alcoholdrughelp.org.nz

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 19019 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Sofie Bribiesca,

    These products and others affect people differently. There is no blanket effect for humans because we are all different. Yes ,for some ,they stink and others seem to like and handle them. That is why evidence helps and hysteria doesn't .

    THIS. You know the appropriate level of alcohol consumption for me (please note the emphasis): None at all, being an alcoholic on various meds that interact very badly with booze and all. But that's a terrible basis on which to make public policy, so (as you say) bring on the evidence-based shiznit. :)

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12046 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Rebecca Williams,

    there have been questions about whether or not manufacturers are including stimulants in the products, because of the number of presentations to ED where people are highly anxious, irritable, etc similar to stimulant presentations.

    I think there have been some instances of cathinones being included in fake pot blends, but that’s not legal now under the Act, so it’s likely that what you’re seeing is what’s on the label.

    Interestingly, methylone (M1), a cathinone, was sold legally for a while under the name Ease by Matt Bowden. It was a convincing, and apparently low-risk, ecstasy substitute. But then it was deemed an analogue of cathinone itself, a Class B drug, and withdrawn.

    Ironically, it gave way to the considerably more problematic BZP, which was legal because it couldn’t be deemed an analogue of any banned drug. Bowden told me it was possible that he would seek approval for methylone under the new Act.

    On the other hand: three fatal ingestions.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 19019 posts Report Reply

  • Sofie Bribiesca, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    The other alternative is even more appalling and a wee bit sinister – because she’s just lied to people who, however misguided on this policy question they might be, deserve better.

    So I asked the Associate Spokesperson for Health, Iain Lees Galloway,in Labour about this because I felt it easily becomes conjecture and he's better a person (cos he sits in Parliament) to address my query.
    Turns out because it was rushed legislation, because select committee had a third of the usual time allocated, because it could have been better to have consulted with Councils for everyone's benefit, it is messy legislation and they think it can be tidied up. With that, of course they support regulation over prohibition and continue to support it. Soper could handle this better. Perception is otherwise.

    here and there. • Since Nov 2007 • 6320 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    Thanks for that Sofie, and I've got no reason to doubt Iain's read. But, FFS, Soper still managed to seriously misrepresent a piece of legislation her own party supported and which was not rushed through under urgency. (And, honestly, you can argue a lot of legislation would benefit from a bit more cooking at the select committee stage but it wasn't by-passed in this case.)

    I'm not naive about the reality of campaigning -- of course, you're going to take every opportunity to paint the other bastards as mendacious idiots who couldn't organize a gang-bang in a brothel. But Soper really played fast and loose on a subject where misinformation does real harm. Everyone's got to lift their game and remember elections come and go, bad policy arguments linger like a bad smell.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12046 posts Report Reply

  • Sofie Bribiesca, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    Everyone’s got to lift their game and remember elections come and go, bad policy arguments linger like a bad smell.

    Hey! that was my response.Plus I did suggest she should get her facts straight. Actually, could you really imagine National organising a gang -bang in a brothel? ..Nope I cant. ;)

    here and there. • Since Nov 2007 • 6320 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    From what I can tell, Lees-Galloway tried twice to remove what became Clause 71 of the Act, which makes personal possession of an unapproved substance an offence punishable by a $500 fine, on the grounds that "Making the possession of an un-approved substance an offence does nothing to advance the purpose of the Bill," and I think he was right. But that was making the bill more, not less, liberal.

    The bill was introduced in February last year and reported back from select committee in June. Wiser heads than mine will have a view on whether that was long enough, but there was a problem that needed addressing asap.

    The Act is here, btw.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 19019 posts Report Reply

  • Sofie Bribiesca, in reply to Russell Brown,

    The bill was introduced in February last year and reported back from select committee in June. Wiser heads than mine will have a view on whether that was long enough,

    He said it was rushed as NAct left it to the last moment to introduce it.

    here and there. • Since Nov 2007 • 6320 posts Report Reply

  • debunk,

    The point is that "A large number of synthetic cannabinoids have been designated class B drugs" (UK) "As with all legal highs, it is unfortunately not clear for users" (that) "many brands vary enormously in the compounds they contain" ie they are not THC - the main active compound in cannabis www.theguardian.com/society/2013/Jan14/mephedrone-benzo-fury=legal-highs

    As a post-grad psychopharmacologist I am appalled at the state of ignorance in New Zealand about psychoactive drugs and their dangers - and this includes anti-depressants, "mood" changers etc - all of which are poorly researched. No-one is going to "research" these legal highs if they can't even do proper assessments of main stream drugs! And now the money is in "neuroscience" and brain manipulations no-one is ever going to bother. It will all end in tears for the NZ health system and for those who pay for it.

    New Zealand • Since Aug 2012 • 105 posts Report Reply

  • Sofie Bribiesca, in reply to debunk,

    As a post-grad psychopharmacologist I am appalled at the state of ignorance in New Zealand about psychoactive drugs and their dangers – and this includes anti-depressants, “mood” changers etc – all of which are poorly researched. No-one is going to “research” these legal highs if they can’t even do proper assessments of main stream drugs!

    I'm in total agreement with you there debunk. That is probably why I cant fathom why cannabis is considered the devil. Still hysteria doesn't change or help your fact.

    here and there. • Since Nov 2007 • 6320 posts Report Reply

  • James Dunne, in reply to Russell Brown,

    The biggest problem was the first of the late lamented Temporary Class Drug Notices was due to expire in August with no mechanism for a further renewal, I think.

    Wellington • Since Sep 2013 • 9 posts Report Reply

  • tatjna, in reply to Russell Brown,

    The level of misinformation around legal highs and drugs in general in this country is astounding. The tenacity with which the misinformed general public clings onto its perspective in the face of facts is even more so. It's almost as if people enjoy a good drama more than the less outrage-inducing reality.

    I am interested in countering this tendency, but struggling to know where to start.

    I'm guessing 'synthetic heroin' might be a mislabelling of opiods such as codeine, which are also legally available through prescription, often redirected from their intended use *cough* and one of the fastest growing groups of drugs of misuse in the world. It isn't hard to see how a kid caught doing that might say 'legal highs' to avoid getting in even worse trouble, and an uninformed parent could jump on the bandwagon.

    How it got in the news without someone realising though.. says something about the media really.

    Wellington • Since Dec 2010 • 4 posts Report Reply

  • Sofie Bribiesca, in reply to tatjna,

    I’m guessing ‘synthetic heroin’ might be

    Methadone?

    here and there. • Since Nov 2007 • 6320 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to tatjna,

    I'm guessing ‘synthetic heroin’ might be a mislabelling of opiods such as codeine,

    Oxycontin/Oxycodone, I reckon. And as such, absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with legal high stores or the Psychoactive Substances Act.

    In an ideal world, this kind of thing wouldn't make it to print. But it does.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 19019 posts Report Reply

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