Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: The perilous birth of the Psychoactive Substances Act

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  • Pete George,

    I asked Peter Dunne some questions related to this recently.

    1. You recently attended a United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs Meeting, Vienna, Austria and spoke about New Psychoactive Substances. What reaction did you get in Vienna about New Zealand's Psychoactive Substances Act?

    The response was positive and interested. I had separate meetings with the European Union, the Dutch, the British, the Americans the Australians and the head of the UN Commission where our legislation was the major topic. All are watching to learn from us, most we believe we are on the right track.

    2. Are you happy with how the implementation of the Act is progressing?

    I am very frustrated by the lack of response from local government. Only 5 of 71 Councils have so far prepared their local policies. Their tardiness is the major reason for the current public controversy.

    3. Was the relationship between cannabis use and synthetic substitutes discussed, especially the effects of cannabis being illegal encouraging drug users to use legal but unknown drugs?

    There was not much discussion about cannabis in Vienna, other than general confirmation that there should be no legal relaxation.

    4. How are other countries dealing with the cannabis/legal high issues?

    Many are applying bans, although all acknowledge that they are ineffective and merely drive things underground. That is why most are looking at what we are doing. In general, they seem to be about we were 2 to 3 years ago in this debate.

    5. Is anything being done in New Zealand or being considered to being done about the claimed anomaly between far better known and claimed less harmful cannabis use remaining illegal while synthetic drugs are given approval to be sold.

    In a word, no.

    6. What are the chances of New Zealand's laws relating to cannabis being reviewed in the next three years.

    Zero I think.

    7. Now your Psychotic Substances Act has been successfully introduced and is being implemented do you have any plans for or do you want to try and address cannabis or any other recreational psychotic drug issues?

    It is my personal view that is possible that in the future the regulated market approach could be applied to cannabis, but that is not a priority. In any case, all the pharmacological and toxicologist and international advice I receive strongly suggests cannabis would fail the low risk test.

    Dunedin • Since Dec 2011 • 139 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Pete George,

    Thanks for that Pete. Given the momentum in other parts of the world, I do think cannabis regulation might be closer than the minister indicates. I've spoken to an advocate who's had private conversations with a number of MPs who seem to see the contradictions in in the Misuse of Drugs Act being off-limits.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18888 posts Report Reply

  • anth,

    Most people use these products with significant problems

    Did you mean "without"?

    Since Nov 2006 • 77 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to anth,

    Did you mean “without”?

    Yes.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18888 posts Report Reply

  • Pete George,

    There's not much sign of a will on the surface for trying to address the cannabis anomalies.

    Greens have had medicinal use of cannabis in their members bill mix in the past but Russel Norman stated recently that cannabis won't be a priority for them this election.

    But I doubt that decriminalisation will be one of the top ten. But, that’s up to the party to decide, but I doubt that will be.

    Cunliffe was quoted on this recently:

    “They can put on the table what they want to put on the table, but Labour’s policy is not to decriminalise cannabis,” says Mr Cunliffe.

    http://www.3news.co.nz/Labour-Greens-crack-over-cannabis-views/tabid/1607/articleID/329908/Default.aspxhttp://

    I can't see how it will be addressed unless it manages to get into Parliament via a members bill. I've just searched "proposed members' bills" and there's nothing under cannabis or marijuana.

    Searching under Bills only comes up with Metiria Turei's Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Amendment Bill that didn't get past it's first reading in 2009.

    Now "“It won’t be one of our major priorities, but it is our policy and we’re not ashamed of that,” she says.

    It's unlikely any of the National, NZ First, ACT, Maori or Mana parties will push it.

    Dunedin • Since Dec 2011 • 139 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    the agonist and the ecstasy...
    Listening to Dunne on Nine to Noon this morning, I was depressed to hear him attempt to put the blame on local councils for not picking up the slack he has created...
    He shows precious little responsibility!

    Further to the Jesse Murray story, the Press reports today that

    A 17-year-old synthetic cannabis addict is seeking help after being threatened for speaking out about the dangers of the drug.

    The responsible adults ostensibly in charge should be doing more work on the social causes of the need to self medicate, meanwhile they seem to be ignoring the symptoms as well...

    Recently I had a chance to look at one of those synthetic product bags, it seemed to be full of twigs and sticks as well as some kind of leafy material, is this so it emulates the classic 'baggie'?
    Surely smoking wood can't be good for humans - do the manufacturers have anything to say about that?

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 4959 posts Report Reply

  • Worik Stanton,

    Good work RB.

    I am so tiered of the OTT reaction coming from all sorts of people who should know better.

    It is ironic that it is Peter Dunn that is bringing sensible drug laws to NZ. If it does work out (and it is working well so far, despite the OTT BS from many who should know better) even Peter Dunn himself acknowledges that cannabis will go through this process.

    Otepoti • Since Nov 2007 • 15 posts Report Reply

  • Will de Cleene,

    Attachment

    From last weekend:

    Raumati • Since Jul 2011 • 105 posts Report Reply

  • tatjna,

    Hahaha snap. I’ve been watching this moral panic develop since 2010. It follows the same pattern that LSD and ecstasy, and before that cannabis, did. Post I made this morning about it:

    tatjna.livejournal.com/966042.html

    Wellington • Since Dec 2010 • 4 posts Report Reply

  • Robyn Gallagher,

    In my town, the council recently published draft guidelines on where legal highs could be sold. The law prohibits them being sold in any dairies, service stations, or anywhere liquor can be sold. The council had also decided that it would be the main street only and nowhere within 50m of a community facility (e.g. the town hall, childcare centre, community house). So with all those restrictions, it left only a gift shop and a sewing machine repair business that could legally sell legal highs. And I don't think either have any interest in doing so.

    Raglan • Since Nov 2006 • 1858 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Semmens,

    If councils are so worried about it, why don''t they open their own outlet to sell it responsibly and shut down the other stores? As I understand it, as long as you have somewhere to go to buy the stuff, the council is complying with the law.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1806 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to Robyn Gallagher,

    threadjerk...

    ...a sewing machine repair business...

    Perfect for a Needle Exchange perhaps?

    ;- )

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 4959 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to Tom Semmens,

    If councils are so worried about it, why don't they open their own outlet to sell it responsibly...

    It'd be great if they put their money where their mouth is, it should definitely make them see the gaps in their thinking around the duty of care...

    Or even run it like the Methadone programme and the 'drugs' have to be consumed on the premises...

    Y'know. engage rather than alienate...

    PS:

    Groups of young men have been using the garden behind a Nelson church as a hideaway to drink alcohol and smoke legal highs.

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 4959 posts Report Reply

  • Pete George,

    Whale Oil has just posted: http://www.whaleoil.co.nz/2014/04/colorados-predicted-crime-wave-legalisation/

    I commented there and the same applies here:

    But there seems to be no political will to address it apart from the ALCP. The Greens seen lukewarm at best, it doesn't fit with their marketing strategy. Cunliffe says Labour won't decriminalise. No sign of anything from National on it. Winston and the rest aren't likely to do anything.

    So we have momentum around the world, we have growing acknowledgement that things aren't working here as they are but no sign of any change.

    Would this be a good issue to be driven non-partisan by the blogosphere?

    Dunedin • Since Dec 2011 • 139 posts Report Reply

  • david westcot, in reply to tatjna,

    excellent blog - demonstrates exactly what the media refuses to provide - rational EVIDENCE-based info instead of kneejerk ,moral-panic gibberish. I continue to be gobsmacked that we can mass-produce so many uni / polytech grads in this country & yet demonstrate a complete failure to engage with this issue [ie. drug policy the wider issue] withany degree of acumen or honesty - Russell over the years is an exception to this. Investigative journalism in this arena is a joke - AWOL ! The blatant & appalling double-standard vis-à-vis alchohol as opposed to various other relatively low harm [ but criminalised ] psychoactives is beyond ridiculous.

    dunedin • Since Jun 2012 • 7 posts Report Reply

  • Pete George,

    A TOUGHLOVE media release on dealing with teens and legal highs:

    Don’t stand idly by whilst legal highs ruin teenage lives

    Dunedin • Since Dec 2011 • 139 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to tatjna,

    Hahaha snap. I’ve been watching this moral panic develop since 2010. It follows the same pattern that LSD and ecstasy, and before that cannabis, did. Post I made this morning about it:

    tatjna.livejournal.com/966042.html

    Yikes. Some of the quotes in those stories are pretty bizarre. “Synthetic heroin”? What shops exactly are selling that?

    And this:

    Labour Party Invercargill candidate Lesley Soper spoke at the protest. People had a right to be angry with the Government after it rushed through a piece of legislation allowing legal highs to be sold in the communities, she said.

    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?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18888 posts Report Reply

  • Sofie Bribiesca, in reply to Pete George,

    I think the "knee jerk " reactions the Media at large tend to serve the opposition Parties could be cause to not engage in healthy debate. Brash showed that to his and Act's detriment. I will hope that it is simmering until after the Election and then maybe a member's bill could come forward. We live in times of anything happening (Tau announced his retirement today!)
    Keep up your good work there Pete I appreciate it.
    Can I just say, the young guy in the news on the legal highs, now dealing with retribution (but cant find that) is imo crying out for help. His initial story said help. People with addiction actually want to give up many times but often have noone to tell them "I'll help you, you can do it" The stopping can be the easy part . What one replaces it with can be the hardest part. You need to change friends ,environment, work. It is a bigger head shift than often assumed. " Just go to rehab" isn't the complete answer. One really needs support that sticks with them. Rehabs have buddies for this purpose as does AA but just one close friend who is always close, inclusive, is hard to find.You have probably alienated all of those who cared. Even more so in co dependant relationships Confidence is way down the rabbit hole and if we look closely, the drugs and alcohol help disguise that, so coming out the flip side requires getting that back ten fold. Back to where you were at the beginning is just that ,the beginning again.
    .....

    here and there. • Since Nov 2007 • 6204 posts Report Reply

  • Pete George,

    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 know that it had strong cross-party support (including Labour) and only John Banks voted against it in the final vote?

    Dunedin • Since Dec 2011 • 139 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    If they reclassify substances with existing legislation on them, alcohol would surely fail. Perhaps that explains why no politician would dare open that door.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8523 posts Report Reply

  • Keir Leslie,

    I think the short answer is that Lesley Soper doesn’t know anything. I remain baffled by the Invercargill LEC’s decision to select her.

    Since Jul 2008 • 1362 posts Report Reply

  • Sofie Bribiesca, in reply to Keir Leslie,

    Please complain. I'm attempting to at the mo

    here and there. • Since Nov 2007 • 6204 posts Report Reply

  • bob daktari,

    If Bunnings were to implement a plan to build huge stores in more centres I'm sure the general outrage felt by so many (it seems) would move onto other things they don't want in their backyard

    Or - and still we await a time when recreational drugs can be discussed and policy proposed in a intelligent manner by our politicians, media and nimby's

    Cheers Russell for your continued rational take on this all

    auckland • Since Dec 2006 • 338 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    I've contacted Peter Dunne's office for detail on what he said this morning about acute presentations falling since the Act came into force. They seem happy to help, so hopefully I'll have that information before too long. I'll also contact CARM, who do the official adverse response reporting.

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

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18888 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Stowell, in reply to Russell Brown,

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

    Is that even legal? :)

    Whakaraupo • Since Nov 2006 • 1571 posts Report Reply

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