Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Synthetic cannabis: it just keeps coming

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  • william blake,

    NORML has suggested that the New Zealand “weed drought” in the early part of the year could be a consequence of criminal operations moving from natural cannabis production to the faster, cheaper and less risky business of synthetics – much in the way that the supply of distilled spirits rocketed and beer consumption slumped during America’s liquor prohibition years.

    Unpacking this a bit, the weed drought, isnt that just an indication of bad planning or effective policing or overuse of the drug? It may be a rational but it’s not a justification for a synthetic version. And ‘faster, cheaper, less risky’ really means more profitable, just like the bootleggers selling a pint of whisky for more profit than a pint of beer. Less risky for a pot grower/ dealer but more risk to the user by ingesting dubious and untested chemicals.

    People wanting to get high should be allowed to grow their own crops and straighten up out of season, if they want to smoke balefulls at a time. A decriminalisation of cultivation (with a trading ban) would reduce harm from chemical highs.

    Since Mar 2010 • 377 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to william blake,

    And ‘faster, cheaper, less risky’ really means more profitable, just like the bootleggers selling a pint of whisky for more profit than a pint of beer. Less risky for a pot grower/ dealer but more risk to the user by ingesting dubious and untested chemicals.

    Yes, that was my point. A large illicit grow takes months to deliver and is fraught with risk throughout that time. Preparing a similar amount of smokeable material with a poorly-understood chemical probably takes a couple of days.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22724 posts Report Reply

  • Alfie, in reply to william blake,

    People wanting to get high should be allowed to grow their own crops and straighten up out of season, if they want to smoke balefulls at a time.

    As most crops are grown indoors these days, the concept of a "season" as such is a little outdated.

    Dunne wouldn't know an underground market unless he stood on a trapdoor and fell into it. To me the whole process of the government selecting 'good' legal highs and allowing them to be sold in retail outlets is fundamentally flawed. The bottom line is that these are all chemicals designed to mimic the real thing -- and the latter is less harmful by a country mile.

    The Colorado experiment has proved (so far) that the sky doesn't fall in when you legalise recreational hooter. Happy punters, happy sellers, happy taxman. It's a no-brainer.

    Dunedin • Since May 2014 • 1375 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Alfie,

    To me the whole process of the government selecting ‘good’ legal highs and allowing them to be sold in retail outlets is fundamentally flawed. The bottom line is that these are all chemicals designed to mimic the real thing. And the latter is less harmful by a country mile.

    But you've just selected the "good" ones, right there :-)

    The flaw is that controlled drugs were deliberately excluded from the Psychoactive Substances Act – and with the Misuse of Drugs Act's sweeping analogue provisions, that meant most of the drugs you'd even know enough about to consider allowing for regulated sale. On the other hand, the MoDA bans a bunch of drugs you'd be crazy to consider selling in a shop. The problem is that that the present legal status of controlled drugs is completely irrelevant in a public health sense.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22724 posts Report Reply

  • william blake,

    Alfie,, it just seems easier to treat growing a plant as a seasonal activity, using hydro and grow lights seems a bit commercial, like forced tomatoes in greenhouses. I think taking the commerce out of ganja growing would take the criminality out of it as well.

    Since Mar 2010 • 377 posts Report Reply

  • Alfie, in reply to william blake,

    I think taking the commerce out of ganja growing would take the criminality out of it as well.

    Agreed. In retrospect, iheriting America's drug laws wasn't such a good idea. (But not quite as dumb as New Zealand signing a one-sided TPPA that's binding forever).

    Allowing individuals to grow a few pets is unlikely to cause the downfall of society. Nobody benefits from current drug laws apart from criminal gangs. As a country we have to decide if we're 100% happy with that.

    Dunedin • Since May 2014 • 1375 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes,

    a recent assurance from Association (sic) Health Minister Peter Dunne that police had told him there was only a "comparatively small" underground market, trading in products stockpiled from the old legal regime.

    I think the whole point of an "Underground Market" is that it is "Underground" so the Police don't know about it. What is it with these people that they can't understand a simple concept.
    Yrs, perturbed of Peria.

    Peria • Since Dec 2006 • 5521 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to william blake,

    pot luck…

    I think taking the commerce out of ganja growing would take the criminality out of it as well.

    Could be an uptick in community garden volunteers…
    Hell, thinking (briefly) about it they should get prisoners to grow it, they already have the security infrastructure in place, and you'd probably end up with mellower prisons as well! – win, win! – you’d have to get rid of Serco and their ilk from the set up though!

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7876 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford, in reply to Ian Dalziel,

    Hell, thinking (briefly) about it they should get prisoners to grow it…

    Nope, they could turn it into rope.

    Atlantis • Since Nov 2006 • 4163 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to william blake,

    I think taking the commerce out of ganja growing would take the criminality out of it as well.

    There would still be a market, just like there is in garden vegetables. But it would certainly help with the criminality part.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22724 posts Report Reply

  • Sofie Bribiesca, in reply to william blake,

    Unpacking this a bit, the weed drought

    Drought? We have a drought? ;)

    here and there. • Since Nov 2007 • 6796 posts Report Reply

  • jon_knox,

    There would still be a market, just like there is in garden vegetables. But it would certainly help with the criminality part.

    Russell has hit the nail on the head. Help, not "entirely eliminate" the criminality part. I suspect a similar ideas was used as part of the justification for implementing the Prostitution Reform Act 2003. Though I applaud the maturity of the intent, the problem of shady characters controlling "the game" remains, though at least the possibility exists of legitimate operators.

    In line with the pint of whiskey being more profitable than a pint of beer, the profit from a pint (volume) of pot/faux-pot, makes drugs sticky for those controlling distribution.

    Belgium • Since Nov 2006 • 464 posts Report Reply

  • Sofie Bribiesca, in reply to Russell Brown,

    I think taking the commerce out of ganja growing would take the criminality out of it as well.

    There would still be a market, just like there is in garden vegetables. But it would certainly help with the criminality part.

    I've been privileged to do my own study with regards Pot.Commerce, the green dollar economy has benefits for many regions and of those I surveyed, said they'd be happy if the status quo was kept.
    A) They believe their hard work is worth the dollars involved in the price and they want to preserve that. Plus they spend those dollars in the community. All of them.
    B) They have systems in place that help each other , the bush telegraph that ensures everyone gets news very quickly to curb the police enthusiasm. The police like the funding for chopper surveillance and like the cat and mouse month of the year. (They waved at us hovering over our house a few weeks back. If nothing else others had a chance to organise themselves while they took time to bother us.

    I believe the market would still exist anyway, I don't grow. I wont grow. A grower is only a criminal because some law says so. Many of them are just like you and me.

    here and there. • Since Nov 2007 • 6796 posts Report Reply

  • Sofie Bribiesca, in reply to Ian Dalziel,

    and you'd probably end up with mellower prisons as well! –

    In my past ,on visits to Rangipo, the saying went, " a stoned prison is a good prison" and that was from the screws point of view.

    here and there. • Since Nov 2007 • 6796 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to steven crawford,

    a frayed knot...

    they could turn it into rope.

    Rope addiction is a brutal thing,
    when people reach the end of their tether...
    Show me to the bell rope...

    and do the strand!

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7876 posts Report Reply

  • Andre,

    Anecdotal evidence would lead me to proffer that the increase in penalties for cultivating marijuana (taking growers' homes etc) is leading gangs to make P instead because the profits are so much higher. Great work PC Plod.

    New Zealand • Since May 2009 • 350 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to jon_knox,

    I suspect a similar ideas was used as part of the justification for implementing the Prostitution Reform Act 2003. Though I applaud the maturity of the intent, the problem of shady characters controlling “the game” remains, though at least the possibility exists of legitimate operators

    Most sex work now is run by legitimate operators. And while some of them might not be good people, OSH can walk in inspect and require standards are met and the workers have protection and can talk to police.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22724 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Andre,

    Anecdotal evidence would lead me to proffer that the increase in penalties for cultivating marijuana (taking growers’ homes etc) is leading gangs to make P instead because the profits are so much higher. Great work PC Plod.

    The purge on Switched On Gardener seems to have been a factor too. It got harder to get growing gear – so, hey, stop growing and do something easier and more profitable. And much more harmful.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22724 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Young, in reply to Andre,

    Exactly. P/crystal meth is far more lucrative for criminal enterprises and easy to manufacture. I tend to be a reformist rather an abolitionist when it comes to drug policy reform because while potheads are annoying obsessive single-issue drones, I have little problem with them lighting up as long as they do it safely, not around kids and in the privacy of their own homes. Unfortunately, ALCP and NORML are their own worst enemies. Why can't NZ cannabis reformers study the US decriminalisation movement and emulate them? It's worked over there.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 544 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    There wouldn’t need to be any off season drought period even if it were grown entirely out of doors. The stuff can be stored for very long periods, if the smallest effort is made to dry it out and store it properly.

    Furthermore a single plant per annum is enough to supply moderate users. A grower I knew said he got about 500g per plant. That’s over 17 ounces. Even he didn’t smoke that much, and he loved his bud, and had no shortages ever.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10629 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    We are talking about a plant that gets to 2m tall after all. The yield he was talking about was only the flower buds. The leafy mass is also pretty substantial.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10629 posts Report Reply

  • Moz, in reply to BenWilson,

    There wouldn’t need to be any off season drought period even if it were grown entirely out of doors. The stuff can be stored for very long periods

    And using the example of basically everything you can buy in a supermarket, commercial growers would have incentives to breed for long shelf life if there was a legal market. I mean, you don't hear of "seasonal droughts" in tobacco or carrots, do you?

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1177 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    If it's commercially grown it would probably be profitable to sell it at about the same cost per weight as something like chili. So at between a thousandth and a ten thousandth of the current cost, depending on quality, freshness etc. The basic substance would cease being valuable, and value added would be entirely in the preparation. That's in the case of complete legalisation. Every control added adds more to the cost. I'd expect sin taxes and all sorts of restrictions in practice, bringing it into line with the cost of booze. It can never be quite be that expensive though because it isn't even now under conditions of total illegality.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10629 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Ironically I think we would probably see a lot less of the super powerful strains that have been bred. Their very existence is a function of the illegality of the substance. You get more $ per gram for stronger stuff. But if the quantity in your possession carries no consequences then there's no real loss in having some half strength outdoor stuff that is a hardy survivor, and grows nicely in hectare sized lots rather than being crammed into a tiny room under an expensive light bulb and individually tended on a daily basis. Only hobbyists would do that any more.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10629 posts Report Reply

  • Katharine Moody,

    I thought the initial interest/development of the synthetic product wasn’t so much because it was legal, but rather because it was thought to be undetectable in workplace drug tests.. And I also thought the type of high produced between the two was quite different as well.

    So, for someone that understands these substances better, my question is: would legalising the cannabis plant necessarily stem the continued interest/use of synthetics?

    My worry is – if we don’t legalise the plant soon – plant users who would prefer not to, might find themselves moving to synthetics because the present producers stop producing the plant (given cultivation is more difficult/higher cost than synthetic formulation).

    Wellington • Since Sep 2014 • 798 posts Report Reply

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