Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Talking to the United Nations about drugs

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  • Rich of Observationz,

    Why is drug policy a matter for the UN?

    Even if you disregard the idea that it's for individuals to decide what they can put in their bodies, then surely it's for countries or communities to decide for themselves what drugs they want to ban, if any?

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

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    Soma-time, and the living is...

    Why is drug policy a matter for the UN?

    Is it because of the international trade?
    …and that consumers in one country provide a market catered to by people who create lawlessness in other countries as well – the sooner governments become the official growers & suppliers the better all round, really…

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7881 posts Report Reply

  • Michael Chiles,

    The sooner we are all allowed to grow our own the better.

    Waikanae • Since Oct 2013 • 4 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to Ian Dalziel,

    There’s no UN convention on what rules countries apply to booze, or pr0n, or firecrackers, or non-military firearms.

    (There are various conventions that ensure that for instance your box of fireworks has the appropriate warning labels, but NZ doesn’t try and force the Japanese to ban tentacle hentai, and conversely Japan doesn’t require us to pixellate genitalia).

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

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    There’s no UN convention on what rules countries apply to booze, or pr0n, or firecrackers, or non-military firearms.

    The clue really lies in the name of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

    The manufacture and supply of illicit drugs is by definition a crime, and because supply often crosses borders, a global crime. This framing has been baked into the conventions since Harry Anslinger drove it onto the UN agenda in the late 50s – and to a lesser extent, in the various conventions of the League of Nations from 1920.

    Simple answer to it being a criminal problem? Make it not a crime. But there would still be legitimate criminal offences in drug manufacture and supply: making and selling drugs that were likely to seriously kill users would be a bad thing – even if only because they were badly manufactured or of a particularly dangerous kind (say, NBOMe sold as the much safer LSD). It’s really a matter of the best way to reduce harm, which is clearly not hard prohibition.

    Indeed, we have many, many examples of prohibition generating harm. That’s the problem that needs addressing.

    Anyway, here's the list of the more than a hundred UN treaties, which might be worth discussing.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22743 posts Report Reply

  • Mark Graham,

    Let's face it, we will eventually see the end of prohibition on drugs. Perhaps not in our lifetime, but eventually. The key is in ensuring drug use is safe. Couldn't we all just follow Portugal's lead? Once upon a time, New Zealand would have been at the forefront of this kind of societal change. Goodness me, how things are different now.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 215 posts Report Reply

  • David MacGregor,

    Hard to understand the nub of this story without any context. I assume there is a backstory somewhere but it seems arcane with it.

    Auckland, New Zealand • Since Feb 2007 • 41 posts Report Reply

  • Ross Bell,

    Wow, just wow. Peter Dunne has just released the speech he'll soon give at the Commission on Narcotic Drugs in a couple of hours. Brilliant stuff (except the medical cannabis stuff - some work still to be done).

    http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA1503/S00099/58th-session-un-comm-on-narcotic-drugs-vienna-austria.htm

    Wellington, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 167 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Ross Bell,

    Wow, just wow. Peter Dunne has just released the speech he’ll soon give at the Commission on Narcotic Drugs in a couple of hours. Brilliant stuff (except the medical cannabis stuff – some work still to be done).

    To wit:

    For those suffering from such ailments I have enormous sympathy and I have asked my officials in New Zealand’s Ministry of Health to look into the evidence and efficacy for cannabis as a medicinal or therapeutic relief.

    The evidence, however, has been underwhelming.

    As a global community, I believe it is essential that we address the issue of medicinal cannabis on its merits. Based on the evidence provided to me, I have grave reservations about the efficacy of cannabis for the vast majority of indications that it is being put forward for.

    These concerns do not stem from a personal antipathy towards the drug, rather, they stem from the very real likelihood that many sufferers – and in many cases they are children, are being given false hope that cannabis use will significantly ameliorate their symptoms, their pain and their reduced quality of life.

    I can sympathise to an extent, in that the medical benefits of cannabis are routinely wildly oversold. What he’s missing (or, rather, his officials are) is that, especially where pain is concerned, subjective benefit is benefit. If cannabis helps someone get off major painkillers, that’s a big win. When the only treatment for chronic pain is something like morphine – and going on the nod and always being constipated and all the other things people find unpleasant – it’s actually wrong to criminalise people for using something that works for them.

    The reference to children is presumably in the case of conditions like childhood epilepsy, where there seems to be a reluctance to accept that high-CBD (and hence, much less psychoactive) strains are providing benefit. Yes, there isn’t enough research on CBD, but other epilepsy drugs are vile and disabling. Really, they’re awful.

    I think this is kind of a flashpoint: held to a conventional standard of pharmaceutical drug approval, we shouldn’t use cannabis as a medicine. But until we get grown-up enough to do the research, it actually seems cruel to deny these children access.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22743 posts Report Reply

  • Alastair Thompson,

    We have just posted Peter Dunne's Speech.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 220 posts Report Reply

  • Ross Bell, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Plus there's been a ridiculous Catch 22 with med cannabis: we don't have evidence about possible effectiveness because research funding has been withheld (US have only recently overturned its ban on federal money for med pot research). It's telling that many more pharmaceutical companies are moving into medical cannabis research... that should tell the minister something.

    Wellington, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 167 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to David MacGregor,

    Hard to understand the nub of this story without any context. I assume there is a backstory somewhere but it seems arcane with it.

    The Brownfield stuff is hardcore policy geekery. I did try and contextualise it a bit for the blog. Any specific questions I can address?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22743 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to Russell Brown,

    the manufacture and supply of illicit drugs is by definition a crime

    If you were a traditional Muslim, you could say the same of the manufacture of alcoholic drinks, or bacon. But Saudi Arabia and Iran don’t get to dictate our laws on that, in fact, aren’t we sending the army to shoot a few people in the head to make just that point?

    Manufacturing and supplying cannabis isn't criminal in one country and four US states. Why should other countries (and similarly, the US federal government) impose their will on those places, any more than muslim countries get to impose their alcohol laws elsewhere?

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

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    Manufacturing and supplying cannabis isn’t criminal in one country and four US states. Why should other countries (and similarly, the US federal government) impose their will on those places, any more than muslim countries get to impose their alcohol laws elsewhere?

    I don't disagree! I was just talking about how the conventions have come to be what they are.

    I do think that even in a sensible world there would be legal treaties in this area, although they would be reflected in different ways in the various laws of sovereign nations.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22743 posts Report Reply

  • mpledger, in reply to Russell Brown,

    > it’s actually wrong to criminalise people for using something that works for them

    Some people can get medicinal cannabis prescribed for them in the form of sativex. See
    http://www.medsafe.govt.nz/profs/RIss/Sativex.asp
    for details.

    it's not subsidised and because it pharmaceutical grade it's more expensive. A few years - maybe 5 - we OIA-ed to find out how many were using it and only a handful were IIRC.

    Since Oct 2012 • 97 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic,

    Why does the status quo of attacking the symptom persist? Could the common thread be that weed prohibition is big business? Big Booze, Big Prisons, the police-industrial complex, the nativist-industrial complex... you name it. Nothing's changed much since William Randolph Hearst made a yellow journalism issue out of it.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-watch/wp/2014/02/17/the-drug-wars-profit-motive/

    http://reason.com/archives/2012/04/22/4-industries-getting-rich-off-the-drug-w

    http://www.msnbc.com/politicsnation/how-profits-help-drive-the-war-drugs

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5414 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    This is a kind of incrementalism I can see is useful. Yes, it's flawed and hypocritical but that's pretty much the UN in a nutshell. At least it is dialled around rhetoric of not ramping up the war on drugs. Superpower exceptionalism is a built in feature. The bottom line is that the US is seeking a way to make their own decriminalisation slightly less hypocritical. Hopefully they can establish a new normal that is a tad more sane than the past.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10629 posts Report Reply

  • Shane Le Brun, in reply to Russell Brown,

    companies are moving into medical cannabis

    Agree with the benefits being oversold, As a supporter of Medicinal Cannabis I am constantly stomping on far lefties who tout it as a cancer cure....
    (lab dish studies are showing it has promise as an additional medication on some types of cancer)

    On the pain side it is often described as being equivalent to Codeine, which isn't that strong really, but for chronic pain patients, tolerance rapidly escalates with opiate medicines, I have a family member on Methadone now for pain, after a failed back surgery, having gone from codeine to tramadol, morphine, oxycodone, and fentanyl... In these patients Cannabis provides a bit more relief than codeine I assure you!! It also has significantly less negative effects, Like having to have enemas' (if you think codeine blocks you up, wait till you try Oxy!!) Naloxone administration for respiratory arrest (that was a close call) and as I have witnessed first hand, withdrawals on newborns....

    I would also like to point out that codeine, the weakest opiate, is the leading cause of prescription overdose deaths in New Zealand...
    https://www.fyi.org.nz/request/2394-rate-of-adverse-events-to-opiates-in-the-chronic-pain#comment-879

    To spell it out simply for the Joe Blogg general public, Raw Cannabis, a Class C Drug, routinely provides more relief than Class B Opiates for those who have been on them for years, and that are associated with at least a dozen deaths a year in NZ....

    Since Mar 2015 • 46 posts Report Reply

  • Shane Le Brun, in reply to mpledger,

    RE Sativex, its available off label for chronic pain, however even with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), widely touted as the most painful condition on the books, ACC still wont cover it, despite approval by specialists and MOH, what a rort.... (the case I am referring to is under review currently)

    I am aware of a woman with one of the more aggressive forms of MS being prescribed it, but cant afford to fill a script, at 1k per month starting rate.......

    Since Mar 2015 • 46 posts Report Reply

  • Worik Stanton,

    I am a bit tired of "Harm reduction". People do not take drugs because they are harmful. People do not use LSD because it is less harmful than alcohol (it is, according to David Nutt) they take LSD because it has benefits for them.

    The same applies to all drug taking. There is some harm from drugs but it does not follow that drugs are harmful.

    I can illustrate that with an analogy: Many people have broken the bones of their feet and lower legs by jumping or falling onto concrete. They suffer harm from concrete and car needs to be taken around concrete. But that does not make concrete harmful. Concrete is useful.

    This is a human rights ssue. Not a legal issue and not a medical issue. It is as much a human rights issue as sexism, racism, homophobia, class predjudice....

    Otepoti • Since Nov 2007 • 32 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Worik Stanton,

    It is about human rights, but this is the UN we're dealing with here. It's about horse trading between superpowers. If they make a move in the right direction, even for the most ridiculous of reasons, that's as good as I've ever come to expect. If baby boomers in the US getting relief from their hemorrhoid pain is the straw that flips a law incarcerating people around the entire world for a victimless crime, then we take it. That's the world we live in. Revel in the fact that a human right has miraculously synchronized with the interests of arseholes.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10629 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    Meanwhile Ireland accidentally legalises ecstasy!

    Ireland is rushing emergency legislation through parliament to make the possession of several drugs including ecstasy illegal after a court ruled that the law controlling their use was unconstitutional.
    Ireland's Court of Appeal struck down part of a near 40-year-old law on Tuesday (Wednesday, NZT), which according to Ireland's Department of Health meant possession of drugs such as ecstasy and benzodiazepines immediately ceased to be an offence.

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7881 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Russell Brown,

    What he’s missing (or, rather, his officials are) is that, especially where pain is concerned, subjective benefit is benefit.

    I think it's worse than that. He's actually saying that false hope is a worse pain than ... actual pain. Especially in children, apparently. Someone think of the children suffering from false hope.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10629 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to BenWilson,

    When you put it that way, yeah.

    But public health officials are generally averse to approving anything that hasn't been double-blind tested, especially for children. Yet when nutbar parents can subject their kids to chelation to cure their damn autism, you do have to wonder.

    You'd think there might be some ground between official approval and "it's a criminal offence to even possess this".

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22743 posts Report Reply

  • Shane Le Brun, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Wow, had to reread chelation therapy, hadn't heard the term in years, and people actually force that on their kids for autism??

    Ive done 1 post on the pros and cons of conventional versus experimental treatments, specifically surgery for paediatric epilepsy..
    http://yournz.org/2015/03/04/medicinal-cannabis-its-not-brain-surgery/

    Since Mar 2015 • 46 posts Report Reply

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