Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Synthetic cannabis: it just keeps coming

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  • Russell Brown, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    “But 90% of illicit drug users don’t enter emergency departments or become addicted” – actually, I think it’s more than that.

    It very probably is.

    What emergency doctors are saying these days is quite notable. They often have a pretty clear-eyed view. I spoke to one recently who said his life would be easier if people could safely obtain MDMA ("a safe form of intoxication") rather than the many riskier alternatives currently circulating in pills.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22754 posts Report Reply

  • Alfie, in reply to BenWilson,

    All I'm saying is that growing using the sun and rain and earth like how it evolved would probably dominate the production just on cost, very, very quickly, as it does in practically every other plant material used by humans.

    I remember wandering around the top of the South Island and an old hippy pointing out fields which were once full of dope plants. That was in the days before helicopters. But no matter how our laws change, I doubt we'll see vast fields of green again. In Colorado and similar jurisdictions where plants can be grown for personal use, overall numbers are restricted.

    Adults 21 or older can grow up to three immature and three mature cannabis plants privately in a locked space, legally possess all cannabis from the plants they grow (as long as it stays where it was grown), legally possess up to one ounce of cannabis while traveling, and give as a gift up to one ounce to other citizens 21 years of age or older. Consumption is permitted in a manner similar to alcohol, with equivalent offenses prescribed for driving under the influence.

    If NZ adopted a similar approach I might even be tempted to grow a couple of plants myself. Though I understand that Dunedin Yellow is nothing to write home about. ;-)

    And you're right Ben... we are labouring the point a bit. At least we agree that a law change is long overdue.

    Dunedin • Since May 2014 • 1386 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Alfie,

    But no matter how our laws change, I doubt we’ll see vast fields of green again.

    Agreed. For starters, I don't think there's really that much demand locally. Every hectare could equal the supply of a thousand hydro growers. A small farm could probably supply the entire country. But it's not an incremental step that folks could accept yet, to have industrial level supply. And if the space has to be "locked", that probably still means indoor plants under lights. But three plants is heaps for personal use, makes me wonder why they bother to regulate the supply. I guess that they're taking it a step at a time.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10633 posts Report Reply

  • Michael Savidge,

    Somewhere near Wellington… • Since Nov 2006 • 324 posts Report Reply

  • politikiwi,

    The other side is parents using cannabis, being so 'relaxed' that feeding the kids, getting them to school, pro actively encouraging their kids education are simply not important.

    Have you got any evidence which proves this is anything more than a straw man argument? Not anecdotal "evidence" - real evidence that this is a real problem.

    This whole argument that "drugs result in absent parents" looks pretty silly when you point out that prison does, too. And if the goal really was to keep parents and children together, the first thing we'd do is end prison sentences for non-violent drug offences.

    Wellington • Since Sep 2014 • 3 posts Report Reply

  • Alfie,

    Matt Bowden has put his Stargate Operations into liquidation. I can't find any mention of this on the Harold, but TV3 News deemed it important -- they ran it as the lead story on Saturday's 6pm bulletin. That story included the revelation that Bowden "wants the public's help to produce natural cannabis medicine."

    Mr Bowden wants to set up a not-for-profit organisation where he will do the research then develop the products. He will need hundreds of thousands of dollars, but he says investors will get their money back.

    Bowden admits he has made millions out of synthetics which surely raises questions about the liquidation. And he's the last person in the world I'd want to see making money out of weed.

    Dunedin • Since May 2014 • 1386 posts Report Reply

  • Sofie Bribiesca, in reply to Alfie,

    Bowden admits he has made millions out of synthetics which surely raises questions about the liquidation. And he's the last person in the world I'd want to see making money out of weed.

    Why? Yes he has has some success. Then yes he has had the Govt curb all that success. Why would you want to see him fail at having a successful business that encourages responsible use and crowd sourcing responsible use and knowledge?

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

  • Alfie, in reply to Sofie Bribiesca,

    Why would you want to see him fail at having a successful business that encourages responsible use and crowd sourcing responsible use and knowledge?

    Because I don't like either his ethics or the business he was running.

    The product he was selling is evil shit and I know one person who is seriously fucked for life after acting as a tester for Bowden's products. Giving even a part of a legal weed market to a person like that is up there with handing it over to big tobacco. IMHO.

    Dunedin • Since May 2014 • 1386 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Semmens,

    If anyone was still in any doubt that our psychoactive drug laws passed and lauded as “world leading” are nothing but a giant con job – a designed-to-fail law that is a smokescreen behind which a cynical government with no intention of ever allowing anything to become legal can hide – then surely the triumphalism and contempt which Peter Dunne didn’t even bother to hide when discussing Matt Bowden’s bankruptcy has removed that doubt.

    I have always maintained this new law was absurd and designed to make it easier to ban, not legalise. Bowden’s demise is the final nail in the coffin of the hope of those who sincerely engaged and believed the government. It was nothing but a confidence trick all along.

    After watching Dunne’s pleasure in putting out of business someone who he didn’t like I felt queasy and slightly ill. Whether or not you approve of Bowden’s business practices a businessman who embarks on a venture based on a belief the government believes in the rule of law and it’s own legislation who is then bankrupted at least partially by a government that lied all along about it’s intentions should alarm us all.

    Sevilla, Espana • Since Nov 2006 • 2213 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Tom Semmens,

    It was nothing but a confidence trick all along.

    It was like a manufactured casus belli for the War on Drugs. Dunne blew his own railway up and blamed it on guerrillas.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10633 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Not that I think Dunne actually set out to do that. It's just what happened.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10633 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    I'd just link this bit of research from tatjna.

    By the MoH's own figures:

    3.5 million packets of synthetic cannabis sold and a maximum of 600 people had problems in the 10 months of regulation. 0.017%

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    I'm trying to get a feel for how this number compares to other products. It looks low, but that's the problem with numbers on very big and very small scales. Leaving out the obvious alcohol and tobacco for now, the rate of hospitalizations for energy drinks in the US seemed to be about 0.00073% per dose (of 250ml) so about 23 times lower. This based on about 118.1 million gallons sold in 2009 and 13,115 hospitalizations. But adjusting for population sizes and ignoring the number of doses (reasonable because it's plausible that people take a lot more energy drinks than entire packets of synthetic whateveroids), the tale is not rosy for energy drinks. 13,115 x (4 million / 300 million) = about 175 hospitalizations if the US had the population of NZ. So the unknown chemicals in all those formerly legal highs were only about 3.5 times more of a national health problem than sugary caffeine drinks.

    The fact that the drinks were mixed with other things isn't that unfair, since the same goes for the chemicals in the synthetic meh-oids.

    But of course under a harm prevention framework that is just a case for the banning of energy drinks. I hesitate to even mention it. Well OK I spent 30 minutes mentioning it, but yeah, that's where these debates always go. That's the death spiral of not taking into account the 1.8 billion energy drink doses that were happily drunk in the US without reports of harm, and focussing on the 13 thousand that did. In case it's not clear I don't think caffeinated energy drinks should be banned, although I do think there might be a case that they should not be sold to children.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10633 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    dunneletter.pdf

    I’ve received a very civil letter from Peter Dunne, which is attached to this comment (see the link above this sentence).

    My response is as follows:

    ---

    Dear Peter,

    Thanks for your letter.

    I think you’ve misunderstood part of my post. At no point did I say that MDPV, Alpha-PVP and NBOMe chemicals were synthetic cannabinoids – they clearly are not. But they were identified in tablets and blotters along with synthetic cannabinoids. These are not only risky combinations, they are all substances for which the principal supply is China. It is not unreasonable to suppose that the cannabinomimetics were imported by similar means to the other chemicals in the same tablets.

    The report from ESR lists 15 samples analysed since July 2014, identifying 10 chemicals. It does not include the two “unknown” cannabinomimetics found in tablets, presumably because these could not be conclusively identified. (These tablets are described in a separate report, “Unusual Drugs Cases Sheet 2: Tablets/Capsules”.)

    That brings us to 12 different chemicals, only three of which were issued with interim product approvals –– and thus could plausibly be “leftovers” from the period of regulated sale under the Psychoactive Substances Act’s interim regime. Five of the 12 are entirely new.

    My statement in the blog post that “[r]ecent samples almost all contained cannabinomimetics never listed by the ministry,” should have been better-phrased. It would have been more appropriate to say that the majority had not been granted interim product approvals.

    As you say, four substances were issued with temporary drug class notices prior to the Psychoactive Substances Act 2013. But given the age of those notices, it seems hard to believe that the samples were leftovers from when they were sold at retail. I’m further assuming that the largest seizure – the 158g of JWH-018 seized by Customs – was made at the border and thus could not have been a domestic leftover.

    So while I could have better phrased one part of the post, I’m happy with its general conclusion that synthetic cannabinoids continue to enter New Zealand for sale in the underground market.

    I did bear in mind the two ESR scientists’ statements to me that recent seizures were new substances and that new substances continued to turn up, but the conclusions in my post were my own and should weigh on me, not them. I was impressed by the goodwill and helpfulness shown by ESR staff.

    Thanks for the kind words about my work, and for the tone of your letter. I regard this as a fascinating and important area to write about.

    Regards,

    Russell Brown

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22754 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Michael Savidge,

    Today's Herald online editorial:

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11451299

    Including this gem: "So much for the black market. So much for the claim that prohibition never works".

    Somewhere near Wellington… • Since Nov 2006 • 324 posts Report Reply

  • Alfie,

    Meanwhile a 59 year old Naseby woman receives 350 hours' community work, 12 months' supervision and is ordered to complete a drug and alcohol programme for growing a few plants and giving them away to her friends and neighbours.

    Dunedin • Since May 2014 • 1386 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Michael Savidge,

    Including this gem: “So much for the black market. So much for the claim that prohibition never works”.

    One pretty major thing that editorial leaves out is that the study it quotes says psychiatric presentations halved during regulation under the Psychoactive Substances Act.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22754 posts Report Reply

  • Alfie,

    Here's another almost identical sentencing, this time for a little shitbag who was blackmailing women and making their lives a living hell. He also received 350 hours community work and 12 months supervision. The court didn't require him to attend any sort of rehabilitation.

    One of these people committed some awful crimes resulting in actual psychological harm to the victims. The Naseby woman helped her neighbours and hurt nobody.

    The law is an ass.

    Dunedin • Since May 2014 • 1386 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Here's quite a serve -- From Doctor Geoff Noller – in the comments under the Herald editorial:

    Dear Editor, you have misinterpreted Prof Glue's article. It reports on the "three months before and after implementation of the PSA on 18 July 2013". Thus the results, i.e. a 42% reduction in EPS contacts and 52% reduction in patient presentations, are compared with the three months pre-PSA. In other words the Act had the desired effect of reducing availability, e.g. down from approximately 5000 outlets to about 150 (Glue incorrectly reports 50) and thereby harms.

    It's erroneous to suggest that based on Glue's data prohibition is seen to be effective. Exactly the opposite in fact; it was regulation that produced the results he reports. Nonetheless problems clearly remained with both the Act and the products. These stem in part from poor implementation of regulations and lack of their enforcement.

    For example, many of those paraded by the media were underage users who had accessed synthetics illegally, often in collusion with unscrupulous retailers. Significant problems also resulted from the Ministry's failure to educate consumers. Why should we be surprised that following 90 years of prohibition cannabis analogs at 1/3 the price should be so popular?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22754 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Stowell, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Here’s quite a serve

    Lordy. Herald again trumpeting black is white. This should be deeply shameful for the writer. In a scrupulous publication the writer would be eating the editorial raw while composing a tearful apology and retraction.

    Whakaraupo • Since Nov 2006 • 2091 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Russell Brown,

    the Herald editorial:

    Dear Editor, you have misinterpreted Prof Glue’s article.

    And again where the heck is the Press Council? The editorial is deceptive false reporting.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4451 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Stowell, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    where the heck is the Press Council?

    Complain!
    (I don’t think they do anything without a complaint – and you need to complain to the publication first. Having recently made a complaint, it wasn’t painful, can all be done online, and Press Council were quick to respond and encouraging.)

    Whakaraupo • Since Nov 2006 • 2091 posts Report Reply

  • Alfie,

    Matt Bowden's Stargate Operations owes Inland Revenue $846,000 and other creditors around $700,000. I would have thought that selling legal highs with a large markup would be incredibly profitable. I wonder where all the money went?

    Dunedin • Since May 2014 • 1386 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Alfie,

    Advertising? Unsold stock? Rents? Wages? It's pretty easy for a very successful business to go broke quickly when the product is legislated out of the market.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10633 posts Report Reply

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