What do we do about synthetic cannabis?

Written By: - Date published: 7:15 am, April 5th, 2014 - 252 comments
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Synthetic cannabis protest

In a massive hall in West Auckland, a community stood up and said enough to synthetic cannabis.  Organised by the Waitakere Community Law Service with the community, hundreds of people from all different sectors of the community met to discuss the problem and what they can do from here.  Most touching was a story of a young boy from his mum, a young man who at 21 has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, and is just not the same after taking up synthetic cannabis.  There was barely a single dry eye in the room, and I really admire and respect her bravery in sharing her personal story.

Where I’m from, you can see lines of people queuing up on a Sunday night to get synthetic highs.  You can see a once proud community of people afraid to walk the streets at night.  You see young people smoking it openly on the streets, before sitting there with an expression so blank you wonder if the life will ever return to their faces.  We have a van driving around selling the synthetics in similarly lower socio-economic neighbouring suburbs.

I am a local board member in West Auckland, and I feel duty bound to do whatever I can to stop this dreadful scourge that is wrecking our communities.  In my view, local board work involves two general areas: work we can physically do, and community causes we can advocate for publically to the governing body and the wider populace.  We need to do both.

Advocating For Our Communities

For synthetic cannabis, we have a duty I believe to be strong advocates and enablers for our community view.  So much of our work involves enabling and encourage voices to come from the community, the most powerful voice of all. Our local board has been supporting others in shaping restrictions for our own area, submitting to the Ministry of Health and writing a letter to the Mayor.  In this, we have suggested further harm reduction methods around health warnings, dosage and requiring applicants for licenses to complete a social impact statement, listing the harms and how the applicant plans to mitigate them.

The Direct Local Government Response

The Psychoactive Substances Act 2013 gives territorial local authorities the power to adopt a local approved products policy.  In other words, local government has the power to restrict sale of synthetic cannabis in certain ways. We cannot ban it however. According to s68 of that Act, the content of a local approved products policy may include such restrictions as the location of the premises by reference to the area, the location by relation to the proximity of other premises either specifically or within a class.

As a local board, we promote a policy that works for our area but it is for the governing body to adopt. So in my opinion, a possible solution for our area is:

“That psychoactive substances cannot be sold within a 1km radius of any kindergartens, early childhood centres, schools, places of worship, or other community facilities”

I also believe that if possible we need a restriction on hours of trade, to cover those that take public transport to and from school.  Banning the stores from the area is great, but it’s not quite on point.  We need clear focus on the harm that is actually being caused and the sections of our city most affected. Through community consultation and just walking down Great North Rd, I challenge you to find me a synthetics user over 25 years old.  As it is affecting our youth, and especially as our young people are still setting up their futures in all sorts of ways, we need to look at responses that specifically prevent harm for them first.  This is why we suggest in particular to restrict sale around schools and places youth are more likely to go.  If you make it abnormal and push it to the margins, it will make it inconvenient for people to take up synthetics in the first place.

 Where To From Here?

If you’re concerned about this, put pressure on your local government.  Community voice and community organisation is an incredibly powerful tool, make it impossible for those in government to ignore, both local and central.  Personally, I would love any feedback on what we can do.  Finally, join the march on Saturday happening all around the country (details for Waitakere here).  I’ll be at the Waitakere march, and if you’re a westie I look forward to seeing you there.

Shane Henderson is the Deputy Chairperson of the Henderson-Massey Local Board in West Auckland.  The views above are his personal opinion and do not necessarily reflect those of the Board.

252 comments on “What do we do about synthetic cannabis?”

  1. One Anonymous Bloke 1

    Require the manufacturers and retailers to use the product on a regular basis. That might not be a bad idea in other areas either 😈

    • idlegus 1.1

      & the policy makers too, if its so good. but i agree with southdeez, legalise the real cannabis. one thing that astounded me about the synthetic weed is the price, its no cheaper than the real stuff, what a gyp!

      • Pasupial 1.1.1

        OAB

        That seems a really bad idea, do you suggest that bottle-stores and pub workers be compulsorily drunk too? That chemist not sell anything they haven’t consumed themselves?

        Rigorous scientific testing before going to market would be good. However, Green policy is to oppose animal testing, which makes it difficult for me to advocate for that (though testing in humans seems less ethical to me). No deaths reported yet that I’ve heard of, and there seems to have been less solvent abuse about (at least in Dunedin) since they’ve been available. People wanting to kill themselves with drugs seem to manage it mainly with alcohol (or huffing LPG in a recent grisly caravan breakin discovery months afterwards).

        The Nat candidate in Dunedin has been grandstanding on this issue for the past week or so. There was an ODT article a few days back about a father whose daughter had gone into the psych ward picketing one of the shops. I wouldn’t be surprised if today’s protest is rained out though.

        The council aren’t able to enforce the psychoactive substances act because it is so shoddily written. Apparently there’s a test-case up in Hamilton which may clarify things a bit eventually. I guess that’s what happens when you let someone as firmly in the pocket of the alcohol industry as Dunne write the legislation.

        • Shane Henderson 1.1.1.1

          I agree, I have talked with shop workers who have told me they wouldn’t ever use the product, nor allow their friends and family to do the same. No one is expecting people who work in the offies to be drunk all the time, but that is quite different from an honestly held fear of consuming even a single serving of the stuff they’re selling. It’s drug dealer like behaviour.

          You’re totally right I think in that the big fear here is that we appear to have products on the market right now in the interim period before the LAP policies and regulatory systems are in place that are not tested. There are examples of their short term harm everywhere, and god knows what these poor kids will be like in the long term because we just don’t know. It’s really sad.

          • Yoza 1.1.1.1.1

            Synthetic cannabis abuse is a direct consequence of the failure of prohibition. These kids would last longer on synthetic cannabis than they would sniffing glue or ‘huffing’. You are not promoting a solution, you are exploiting a health issue to promote yourself.
            Legalising real cannabis is the only sane solution to synthetic cannabis abuse, but you are too scared to offer such an alternative.

          • weka 1.1.1.1.2

            I think you all missed OAB’s point.

          • Rogue Trooper 1.1.1.1.3

            SC was not developed for human consumption originally; in addition to youth, there are many ‘mature’ purchasers of SC moving across from dope, on price, availability and legality.

        • One Anonymous Bloke 1.1.1.2

          The psychoactive substance act would be unenforceable however it was written, because legal barriers are irrelevant to people who want drugs. The obvious solution (99% of synthetics users prefer weed) is to provide safer alternatives.

          Edit: …and lower the GINI.

          • weka 1.1.1.2.1

            And yet making cannabis illegal has restricted use, so let’s not pretend that prohibition is completely useless. I agree that decriminalising cannabis is the smart thing to do. It’s just irks when people say that legislation has no effect when it patently does (everyone who ‘wants drugs’ today can’t get them, because of the law).

            • One Anonymous Bloke 1.1.1.2.1.1

              Are you sure its legal status has restricted use? I can’t find the link, but I’m sure I read that cannabis use is lower among Dutch citizens than among citizens of countries where criminal penalties apply.

            • One Anonymous Bloke 1.1.1.2.1.2

              To put it another way, learning to drink responsibly would be a lot harder if I had to get it from my local moonshine vendor and do it in secret.

              • weka

                I don’t disagree with that, except to say that we have legally accessible alcohol in this country and not a great culture of drinking responsibly 😉

                “Are you sure its legal status has restricted use?”

                Yep. Don’t know what has happened in the Netherlands, but NZ has different drinking patterns than Europe, so it’s likely we have different drug taking ones too.

                I think there are many factors to accessibility and use, including education and whether advertising is involved. But the mere fact that you have to have connections to buy illegal drugs as opposed to popping down to the local dairy, suggests legality is an issue. I also hear people who use synthetic cannabis saying they do so because cannabis is illegal.

                If cannabis was available on demand how come there is so much comment about medical marijuana? I’m guessing it’s because many who need it medically don’t have the right connections. Making it legal would increase access and use.

                I’m not saying prohibition is good, just that it’s not completely ineffective in its objectives.

                • One Anonymous Bloke

                  Where it’s effective that efficacy is dwarfed by the mountain of fish-hooks.

          • Rogue Trooper 1.1.1.2.2

            and, and. according to my Pearl Jam tee-shirt, 9 out of ten children prefer crayons to guns.
            (Redneck mofo’s notwithstanding).

      • Rogue Trooper 1.1.2

        it IS cheaper than cannabis, fro example, $25 for three grams of SC

  2. SouthDeez 2

    What do we do about synthetic cannabis?

    Legalise natural cannabis. Problem solved.

    • BM 2.1

      Would you not get the same result?

      • One Anonymous Bloke 2.1.1

        Is that what happens in the other countries where it’s legal or been legalised? Let’s have some reality-based arguments for a change.

        • BM 2.1.1.1

          You do get a lot of anti social behavior from smoking dope especially when mixed with alcohol.

          • One Anonymous Bloke 2.1.1.1.1

            Answer the question. Take Holland, for example, that place that just closed all its prisons.

            • Populuxe1 2.1.1.1.1.1

              The Netherlands closed a number of its prisons (not “all”), mainly as a cost-cutting measure, certainly nothing to do with cannabis which has been legal or quasi-legal in the Netherlands for decades, and many of those formerly in prisons are now on home detention.

            • BM 2.1.1.1.1.2

              http://jcjusticecenter.com/2013/09/14/netherlands-closing-19-prisons-due-to-lack-of-criminals/

              In 2013, there are 19 prisons scheduled to be closed. This is caused, in part, by a continued decline in crime rates. Additionally, those who are convicted are choosing electronic tagging instead of incarceration. This allows people to go back to work and continue as productive members of society. It also saves about $50,000 per year per person (about $50 million saved per year for every 1000 people).

              The average incarceration rate in the Netherlands is about 163 people per 100,000.

              Obviously quite a few criminals in Holland have jobs I’m not sure what the statistics are for NZ prisons but I get the feeling the majority of people who wind up in NZ prisons are unemployed.

              If that is indeed the case I can’t see the Holland system being particularly effective in NZ.
              Different strokes for different folks and all that.

              • Colonial Viper

                If that is indeed the case I can’t see the Holland system being particularly effective in NZ.
                Different strokes for different folks and all that.

                It’s actually far cheaper to give these people jobs at $35,000 pa and get productive output from them, than to keep them in criminal university (prison) for $90,000 pa.

                • One Anonymous Bloke

                  Yeah, but that would reduce SERCO profits and BM might miss out on a shiny uniform.

          • Tamati 2.1.1.1.2

            If you call eating two large pizzas by yourself antisocial, then you’d be right.

    • Blue 2.2

      Agree with you SD. Alcohol is a blight on communities, as is synthetics. Legalise cannabis, regulate, tax it, create jobs from the industry. It’s the sensible thing to do.

      • BM 2.2.1

        So you’re saying it would be completely different if you replaced the artificial cannabis with natural cannabis.

        Why?

        • One Anonymous Bloke 2.2.1.1

          Pretty sure that’s what the medical profession’s saying. This from Stuff:

          “Christchurch Hospital emergency specialist Paul Gee said the number of patients admitted to the emergency department after using synthetic cannabis-type drugs like K2 was growing. The side effects appeared worse than products of the past, including those now banned, he said.

          Agitation, confusion, paranoia, seizures and violent behaviour could last days to months, Gee said.

          One patient had been admitted to intensive care with severe toxicity. Others had to be given sedatives or subdued by police before being admitted to hospital.”

        • mickysavage 2.2.1.2

          I have spoken to a few cops about it. They believe that the synthetic stuff is waaay more dangerous than the natural alternative.

          • Pete George 2.2.1.2.1

            And that will be based on short term effects only. It’s unknown what longer term problems may emerge.

            The actual and potential problems with cannabis are well known.

            • Shane Henderson 2.2.1.2.1.1

              That’s a strong impression I’m getting too micky. As you all point out, Police and the country in general at least know what we’re dealing with regarding natural cannabis, users on it are by and large fairly predictable in environment and behaviour. I’ve had an officer tell me straight up that if they could replace synthetics with natural stuff from a policing perspective it would be a no contest.

              No one is saying natural cannabis is broccoli, there will be harms and also compliance costs for us all to bear, but as damage control in responding to synthetics we at least know what we’re dealing with and can draw on some international experience.

              • weka

                “I’ve had an officer tell me straight up that if they could replace synthetics with natural stuff from a policing perspective it would be a no contest.”

                Perhaps the police and army should stop wasting all those resources chasing growers then. One of the reasons that people are using the synthetic cannabis is because it’s easier to access. If a grower or supplier of cannabis gets busted and the suppy dries up in an area, what do you think people who want to use do next?

                • McFlock

                  it’s sort of in their job description, though.

                  • weka

                    Unless it is legislated that the police have to target growers, I don’t see any reason why they can’t change that. Apart from police culture of course.

                    • McFlock

                      I’m not sure that we really want the police choosing which law they enforce.

                    • weka

                      But they already do McFlock. You really think the police police all the laws of NZ according to how they were written?

                    • McFlock

                      I think there’s a massive difference between situational expedience due to workload priorities and deciding, as a matter of institutional policy, to ignore random laws.

          • weka 2.2.1.2.2

            A friend of mine, long time expert cannabis user, reckons that the synthetic stuff is evil in terms of negative effects. He also prefers the synthetic stuff. What does that tell you.

            I agree with Southdeez – legalise cannabis AND regulate the hell out of the the synthetic cannabis (or just ban it), AND when decriminalising cannabis do so in a way that allows people to grow their own (personal use and sharing – cannabis is a social drug after all).

            Further, cannabis should be decriminalised so that supply gets put into the hands of the current experts (growers) rather than regulating it so that it becomes part of profit driven big business. It certainly shouldn’t be handed over to big pharma (medical marijuana is a different issue). There is an opportunity here to let people set up small businesses and create satisfying employment.

            Another flow on effect is that decriminalising cannabis should take the restrictions off the hemp industry (hemp being an exceptionally useful plant and easily grown without polluting). We should be encouraging hemp growing and processing instead of making it difficult.

            edit Plus, increase funding to drug education (harm minimisation) and health services. In a country where too many people are self-medicating this is a necessity.

          • Tamati 2.2.1.2.3

            I’ve smoked both. Much the same IMO, although there are some really bad synthetics out there.

          • Rogue Trooper 2.2.1.2.4

            It hits the mind short, sharp, and hard, and is surprisingly addictive if one is inclined. Mob et al; are buying large and selling deal bags; $10? not as hard to find as a 20 if one is poor.

        • j'nette 2.2.1.3

          The reason other countries are legalising regulating and taxing real cannabis is because it has medical value and doctors are prescribing it for many different reasons. Many war veterans came back with PTSD from Iraq , and Afghanistan and they were one of the first groups to be users of medical cannabis especially as it is helpful in treating alcoholism. Recreational use of cannabis alone is very safe whereas the man who invented the synthetic cannabis did not expect people to use it. He even said it may be harmful.
          As a drug and alcohol counsellor the courts are full of cannabis users and growers and this is wrong while people continue to use stuff that may have a very unpredictable outcome. People over 25 years of age do use this stuff. People who are drug tested in the workplace are a big group of users.

        • emergency mike 2.2.1.4

          “So you’re saying it would be completely different if you replaced the artificial cannabis with natural cannabis.

          Why?”

          Um, because they are not the same?

          “Christchurch Hospital emergency specialist Paul Gee said the number of patients admitted to the emergency department after using synthetic cannabis-type drugs like K2 was growing.”

          Alcohol: hundereds of deaths or serious injuries every year.

          Natural weed: zero deaths and virtually zero hosptial admissions since forever.

          • Roy 2.2.1.4.1

            Not entirely true, occasionally you do get people turning up to ER with Cannabis Hyperemesis Syndrome. Although at lower doses cannabis suppresses nausea and vomiting, at high doses it causes the person to vomit repeatedly, and to find solace only in taking showers. So if you have a vomiting problem and want to go to ER, do NOT go there with wet hair or they will assume you are a dopehead and may treat you accordingly.
            I understand that Cannabis Hyperemesis Syndrome is fairly easy to treat with IV anti-emetics.

            • emergency mike 2.2.1.4.1.1

              How many per year Roy?

              I’d never heard of this, but having a quick read it seems that this is a brand spanking new disorder that is not much understood. It seem to affect a minuscule number of chronic cannabis users. Meh, too much of anything is going to cause problems for some people, and some people can die if they eat a peanut.

    • It wouldn’t solve all problems and I’m not certain it’s a good solution but I think it’s time we had a major review of laws relating to cannabis in New Zealand and act on expert advise from that.

      • Draco T Bastard 2.3.1

        The experts go for a long walk on a short pier. We know what we need to do, it’s the experts preventing us.

      • Jim in Tokyo 2.3.2

        I think it’s time we had a major review of laws relating to cannabis in New Zealand

        And when the major review of laws relating to cannabis comes back overwhelmingly in favour of decriminalization, the Pete Georges of the world will blanch in horror, sit on their hands or actively obstruct for for ten years, then call for another comprehensive review of all laws relating to cannabis.

        When that major review comes back overwhelmingly in favour, the Pete Georges of the world will….

        http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2012/oct/15/decriminalise-drug-use-say-experts

        • weka 2.3.2.1

          Yeah, but…

          The experts say the criminal sanctions imposed on the 42,000 people sentenced each year for possession of all drugs – and the 160,000 given cannabis warnings – should be replaced with simple civil penalties such as a fine, attendance at a drug awareness session or a referral to a drug treatment programme.

          They also say that imposing minimal or no sanctions on those growing cannabis for personal use could go some way to undermining the burgeoning illicit cannabis factories controlled by organised crime.

          But their report rejects any more radical move to legalisation, saying that allowing the legal sale of drugs such as heroin or cocaine could cause more damage than the existing drugs trade.

          Is that paced change that is really heading for full decriminalisation? Or do they really believe that all people who smoke dope need to attend a drug awareness session?

        • Draco T Bastard 2.3.2.2

          +1

        • Pete George 2.3.2.3

          That’s crap Jim. I’d promote any properly decided outcome of any review. I’ve been on record for years as a promoter of dealing with the obvious problems with current laws and how they are policed on cannabis. If you don’t believe me ask these guys.

          Reducing or eliminating any illegality for using cannabis is not a simple matter if you want to take into account all the possible effects on our society, which could be substantial. It needs to be considered carefully and thoroughly.

          Those saying synthetic highs should just have been blanket banned have no idea of the complexities involved.

          • weka 2.3.2.3.1

            Oh I think we do. I think that the complexities you are ignoring are to do with the mainstream views on drugs, and who wants to keep control. Who exactly are these experts that you think are going to look at the complexities of cannabis decriminalisation and then come up with a good plan? Do they include users? Growers? Sellers? Addicts?

            So you know some people from ALCP. How about you link to some blogposts you have done on drug law reform?

            • Pete George 2.3.2.3.1.1

              September 2011 (election campaign): Cannabis deserves a decent debate
              http://yournz.org/2011/09/27/cannabis-deserves-a-decent-debate/

              May 2012: Should cannabis law be reviewed?
              http://yournz.org/2012/05/27/should-cannabis-law-be-reviewed/

              April 2013 Psychoactive Substances Bill and cannabis
              http://yournz.org/2013/04/14/psychoactive-substances-bill-and-cannabis/

              January 2014: Greens on cannabis
              http://yournz.org/2014/01/27/greens-on-cannabis/

              I’ve also commented on it at various times in various forums.

              • weka

                Thanks Pete, but I already knew that you want a review, you said that upthread. I’m asking you what you think about decriminalisation of cannabis, given your response to Jim was to say you have contacts in the ALCP. You also didn’t answer my other question.

                I note that in the first link you mostly just repost other people’s ideas. Where you do say something of your own, you talk about how cannabis should be ‘policed’.

                The second link is about the legal highs legislation. It also is mostly other people’s ideas, and what you do say is fairly meaningless and doesn’t say anything about cannabis law reform.

                I think Jim’s points stand.

                • weka

                  I see you have edited to add two more links. One is about the GP policy. You’re sole comment is that it sounds reasonable and you support it.

                  The other is another link to the legal highs legislation, which has Dunne basically saying that cannabis is more dangerous than synthetic cannabis, so I think that undermines any credibility you might have gained with the GP link.

                  • I think that undermines any credibility you might have gained with the GP link.

                    That’s pathetic.

                    Why should something Dunne said undermine something I said? We are two completely different people. I was reporting what he said, that’s all.

                    • One Anonymous Bloke

                      Jim’s point stands.

                    • weka

                      What Dunne said is irrelevant. It’s that YOU posted that link in response to my question in the context of what Jim had said (basically that you would prevaricate when it comes to drug reform), and that you thought that your blogpost meant something in the context of this conversation. Everything you have said and linked to since Jim’s comment demonstrates that he is probably right.

                      I notice you didn’t address my other points, or answer my questions.

                • My inclination is that cannabis law should be at least relaxed and possibly completely decriminalised for private growing and using

                  Unlike others here seem to be I’m not a medical expert or narcotics expert or social problems expert or addiction expert or crime expert so I don’t know by how much. I think it should be debated and decided by experts.

                  • weka

                    What experts? Does that include users, sellers, growers, addicts? Because if you ask drug users, ie the actual people in NZ who are affected most, there are a lot of areas where the mainstream is failing badly at dealing with drug issues, including the areas you just listed.

                    Also bear in mind that successive govts have cut support services for addicts. What does that tell you about the experts?

                  • Rogue Trooper

                    GO AWAY! please, ‘else we won’t read your comments Pete George. (just a little humour).

          • Jim in Tokyo 2.3.2.3.2

            I’d promote any properly decided outcome of any review

            http://norml.org/marijuana/personal/item/government-private-commissions-supporting-marijuana-law-reform

            It needs to be considered carefully and thoroughly

            Here’s the nub of the problem. It has been, and the verdict is in. But there’s always another numpty calling for another review.

            • Pete George 2.3.2.3.2.1

              When did the New Zealand Parliament last consider cannabis law? Any group can review anything they like but unless it’s considered by Parliament nothing’s going to change.

              • Jim in Tokyo

                Any group can review anything they like

                Lets say, hypothetically of course, that the NZ Law Commission conducted a comprehensive review of the Misuse of Drugs Act in 2011 and top of the list of key proposals contained in the report was “A mandatory cautioning scheme for all personal possession and use offences that come to the attention of the police, removing minor drug offenders from the criminal justice system and providing greater opportunities for those in need of treatment to access it.”

                Anyway, I’m giving up, your mates at ALCP should be more than willing to explain to you exactly what’s wrong with your ‘we need a review’ position.

                • That only covers a part of the issue.

                  I’m sure not everyone would just accept a a legal view that proposes “a mandatory cautioning scheme for all personal possession and use”. Were they consistent and propose that for alcohol use too?

                  • One Anonymous Bloke

                    Yeah, this asshole’s position is perfectly clear. Prevarication and hand-waving, just like on every other topic.

                    • Instead of the abuse cop out can tell me what you would do to make something happen on cannabis law reform?

                    • One Anonymous Bloke

                      First time I’ve engaged on the subject. I suggested several solutions. To get things moving is too late, Petty Peter, because the way the US states fall like dominoes, things already are. Moving, that is.

                      If I really wanted to get things moving on drug reform I’d introduce something legal, superficially similar, and worse. No, wait….

                • Rogue Trooper

                  Excellent Knucklehead (a compliment, depending on one’s perspective on agricultural motor cycles.).

          • Draco T Bastard 2.3.2.3.3

            Those saying synthetic highs should just have been blanket banned have no idea of the complexities involved.

            And I think you’re inventing non-existent complexities so as to justify your position and that of UF.

            • Pete George 2.3.2.3.3.1

              I’m not not trying to justify The UF or National or Greens or Labour or MP1 or MP2 or NZ First or ACT parties positions.

              Drugs and laws are complex. That’s reality for anyone who’s not on something.

              • weka

                “That’s reality for anyone who’s not on something.”

                rofl. Thanks for making clear where you really stand PG. Well done for finally being honest.

              • Draco T Bastard

                Complex laws tend to have loopholes in them – in fact, that seems to be the problem we’re having now. Better to make them less complex. And drugs certainly aren’t complex.

                I have no idea what you’re smoking but you’re certainly not connected to reality.

                • Populuxe1

                  Well actually, the problem is that you simply can’t lay down any hard and fast definitions as to what is an illegal synthetic drug because it’s relatively easy to come up with endless variations that scoot around the definitions. You can say “ban synthetic cannabinoids”, but then you have to define what a synthetic cannabinoid is, and once you’ve done that any underworld chemist can knock off a variation which circumvents that definition without breaking the letter of th elaw.

                  • Draco T Bastard

                    You can say “ban synthetic cannabinoids”, but then you have to define what a synthetic cannabinoid is, and once you’ve done that any underworld chemist can knock off a variation which circumvents that definition without breaking the letter of th elaw.

                    Good job I’m not suggesting doing that then isn’t it?

                    Blanket bans are really easy.

      • Rogue Trooper 2.3.3

        we had a Law Commission Review on our drug laws, with accompanying recommendations…

  3. just saying 3

    I’d prefer to see much more concern with offering young people something better, so the world they are living in and the future they see for themselves isn’t one they feel such a desperate need to get out of. Sure people have always wanted to get high, but the urgent for anaesthesia has a hell of a lot to do with pain, fear, loneliness and despair.

    And in the meantime, if you really want to get rid of synthetic cannabis, legalise the safer alternative. Or is that too easy?

    The left cant afford to keep dealing with the social problems caused by the society we have created with new rules and penalties and further blaming and punishing its victims. That’s right-wing bullshit.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 3.1

      +1

      Mental health issues increase with the GINI.

    • RedLogix 3.2

      I’d prefer to see much more concern with offering young people something better, so the world they are living in and the future they see for themselves isn’t one they feel such a desperate need to get out of. Sure people have always wanted to get high, but the urgent (need) for anaesthesia has a hell of a lot to do with pain, fear, loneliness and despair.

      +1

      Using drugs use is a symptom not a cause. Until we are willing to address the root cause we will argue back and forth on the various merits or otherwise of legalising drugs and get nowhere. As we have been doing for some decades now.

      Middle NZ is still nowhere near supporting such a change and a platform that gives it any prominence is still political suicide.

      Having said that, personally I like the very pragmatic approach the Dutch take on these matters. They have a very wide social tolerance for behaviour that doesn’t directly impact other people. But heaven help you if you step over the boundary – you get hammered.

      Given that we are stuck with alcohol and home-grown weed, then we’d best adjust our legal structures to accommodate that. And if you pill experts want to argue for adding a few other pretties like E and LSD to the list then I’d listen.

      Having made that concession, the quid pro-pro-quo would be that the supply of everything else attracts very long Asian-style prison sentences.

      • Draco T Bastard 3.2.1

        Middle NZ is still nowhere near supporting such a change and a platform that gives it any prominence is still political suicide.

        I think you’re wrong there. I believe that if a referendum was held on it the majority would support legalisation of marijuana.

        • Murray Olsen 3.2.1.1

          I also believe it would get majority support. Otherwise law abiding people are sick and tired of seeing their friends and children hassled and locked up for no good reasons.

      • I’m trying to find polls on it. The Vote had one but unreliable.

        Here’s one recent “proper” poll:

        KIWIS SAY NOPE TO DOPE – POLL
        Media Release 10 September 2013

        Only one in three NZ’s believe that marijuana should be decriminalised, according to an independent poll of NZ’ers.

        In the poll of 1,000 NZ’ers by Curia Market Research, respondents were asked whether they agreed with the statement “If an adult wishes to use a drug such as marijuana, they should be able to do so legally.” Only 33% of respondents agreed, with 60% disagreeing and 7% being unsure or refusing to say.

        http://www.familyfirst.org.nz/2013/09/kiwis-say-nope-to-dope-poll/

        While the poll should have been done properly the claim doesn’t match the odd poll question.

        “Use a drug such as marijuana” opens up other possibilities so people are not saying no “to dope”, they are saying no to drugs such as dope which is significantly different.

        It’s quite possible that a question referring to marijuana only would have more agreeing and fewer disagreeing.

        • Family First/Curia polls are notoriously poorly worded, to the extent one has to assume it’s deliberately done to ensure the most conservative answer possible. I don’t think a serious fact-checker should rely on such results, even with caveats about their reliability.

          • Pete George 3.2.2.1.1

            I’m not aware of any fact checker relying on their results. Are you?

            • One Anonymous Bloke 3.2.2.1.1.1

              Stephanie, Petty George is right: he isn’t a fact checker’s arsehole.

              • ‘Petty’ and ‘arsehole’ could be projection and are at the least highly ironic.

                • One Anonymous Bloke

                  Still no heartbeat from Politicheck suggests that it’s the simple truth.

                  Petty George, midwife to the stillborn.

                  • There’s been a lot of work done behind the scenes. Good things take time.

                    Pending the availability of the website being developed I have initiated an interim alternative. This will be in action this week.

            • Stephanie Rodgers 3.2.2.1.1.2

              I appreciate that you’re commenting on this site in your personal capacity, and not as editor of Politicheck NZ, Pete. But the fact remains that your comments on this thread and others show a tendency on your part to take partisan press releases as statements of fact.

              In this case, if you didn’t think the Family First/Curia poll had some level of credibility, you wouldn’t have brought it into this discussion. It’s not really good enough to be making arguments of the calibre of ‘these people said this, but they’re not entirely credible, but it’s probably reasonable that this is slightly accurate.’ And presenting arguments like this in your personal capacity is going to influence how people view your work on behalf of Politicheck.

              • I didn’t take that or any poll as a statement of fact. Polled opinions are never facts.

                I didn’t present any argument apart from pointing out anomalies in the poll. Instead of an apparent obsession with conjured up criticisms look at the poll and make your own conclusions, I added it to the information here so you could do that if you wished.

                • felix

                  Hi Pete.

                  Steph says “if you didn’t think the Family First/Curia poll had some level of credibility, you wouldn’t have brought it into this discussion.”

                  Could you fact-check that for me please? It seems legit to me but you’re the expert.

      • Two marijuana specific polls from UMR which show a slight move to more softening of marijuana laws:

        That earlier blog commented on the results of a SAYit survey of n=1000 New Zealanders conducted in August 2011, and showed that at that time:

        14% wanted marijuana fully legalised
        45% wanted it decriminalised, so anyone caught using it would get fined but would not get a criminal record
        38% believed that it should remain illegal and anyone caught using it should get a criminal record.
        3% were unsure.

        ​We re-asked this question in July 2013 (again with a survey of n=1000 New Zealanders), which showed a small change in attitudes.

        17% now want marijuana fully legalised
        46% now want it decriminalised
        35% believe that it should remain illegal.
        2% are now unsure.

        ​The proportion favouring a softening in the laws is therefore up from 59% to 63%.

        http://sayit.co.nz/blog/marijuana-versus-synthetic-cannabis

        • RedLogix 3.2.3.1

          Well do appreciate you’ve taken the time to put up some links PG. And they are interesting.

          Clearly there is a ‘mood change’ towards some softening of the current law. And I welcome that.

          But I’d still think that it’s a lot like the US conundrum around gun control, that while polling in that country consistently suggests a large majority of Americans want tighter gun laws, an exceedingly vociferous and connected minority demand the exact opposite. Because these are one-issue voters and constitute a sufficient minority, no-one can successfully make a stand on better gun laws in the USA and survive.

          The same might apply here, while there may well be a sort of soft majority happy to go along with decriminalising weed, those who don’t want this would consist of a hard-core opposition who’d be determined to make life difficult for anyone proposing such a reform. It could easily turn out to be another politically very expensive fiasco like the S88 Reform legislation – a great achievement at great cost.

          My suggestion way up above @3.2 was to propose a good old-fashioned horse trade – a much broader tolerance of a few drugs well-proven to be relatively harm-free, while taking a substantially harder line on everything else. This is a reasonable political compromise that could be agreed to by the hard-line anti-all-drugs brigade.

          • Pete George 3.2.3.1.1

            The problem here is there is no one pushing hard for any change except ALCP. But I agree, to get anywhere a pragmatic trade off is the best approach. Perhaps that’s something ALCP could do to leverage support off other parties this election.

            From what I saw last election they took a humorous approach which got some attention and support but wasn’t taken very seriously as a political option. There’s new leadership there now, maybe they will get more ambitious and more focused on how best to try and achieve something.

            If they don’t do it I have no idea who would.

  4. her 5

    I agree. Legalize pot.
    The war on drugs is a war on the sick and elderly.

    Why does my country hate me?

    I just want to die quietly and in slightly less pain and discomfort.

  5. Michel Woodhouse wrote a column on this:

    Time for the Council to Act on Psychoactives

    Last year Parliament overwhelmingly supported the passing of the Psychoactive Substances Act. This legislation is designed to ensure that so-called “legal highs” can only be sold following rigorous testing to ensure they are not harmful. This follows a number of high-profile hospital admissions, motor vehicle crashes and violent offenses by people under the influence of psychoactive substances.

    In developing the legislation a transitional framework was put in place. It provides for the interim licensing of some products and sellers. The interim regime has resulted in the number of retailers nationally dropping from an estimated 3,000 – 4,000, to around 156, and the number of products available from an estimated 300, to 41. No new retail outlets are permitted until the interim period ends – expected to be mid-2015.

    The Act also provides for local councils to implement a Locally Approved Product Policy (LAPP). Such a policy can regulate the location of premises from which products may be sold, including the minimum distance from other premises, for example kindergartens, schools, churches and health facilities.

    Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne was recently critical of Councils’ tardiness in putting LAPPs in place, stating “To say I have been disappointed by the response of the vast majority of local authorities to the Act is an understatement. Instead of getting on with developing and implementing LAPPs, the vast majority of local authorities opted instead to engage in media debate over the merits of the Psychoactive Substances Act, passed 119 – 1 by Parliament less than 8 months ago”. I agree with his comments.

    It appears the Dunedin City Council is one of those slow to act in implementing a LAPP. It shouldn’t be. Parliament has given it a tool to restrict the location of licensed outlets. It needs to take that action.

    The Hamilton City Council (having approved their LAPP earlier this year) recently suspended the interim retail licenses of all six psychoactive substance product retailers in the Hamilton area. The suppliers of these products, obviously upset at the action, have sought a judicial review of the decision. That is their right, but he hearing could take some time. The Dunedin City Council should not slow its own work as a consequence of that action, or deviate from its responsibility to speedily implement its own LAPP, in order to reflect our community’s view that substances of this nature should be restricted in their availability.

    I call on the Dunedin City Council to implement its LAPP quickly and suspend licenses of retailers operating outside the parameters of that policy.

    That was first published in The Star and was also sent to me on request by Woodhouse.

    • The Hamilton drug shops are still open business as usual.

      • Shane Henderson 6.1.1

        The bow-tied one doesn’t seem to realise that fast law can make bad law. Don’t get me wrong, we need to act as fast as we possibly can, because every day we don’t have restrictions in place is another day of incredible harm on our young people and communities. But if this interim period was legislated better so that we didn’t have this pressure on the Councils we could have potentially avoided Hamilton CC being dragged through Court after doing their very best to help their community with quick and decisive action. How did we get to a situation where clearly harmful products are being sold in this grace period??

        • marty mars 6.1.1.1

          Just a small point – I have a relative aged over 30 addicted to this stuff and destroying his family and life – he can buy it, and does and then uses it and that’s him sorted, comatose on the sofa for the night. Obviously lots of young people are buying and using it but also some not so young.

    • Draco T Bastard 6.2

      In developing the legislation a transitional framework was put in place.

      Still wondering why they did that – oh, no I’m not. Obviously some people were concerned about how much money they’d lose if the government put a blanket ban in place like they should have.

  6. One of, if not the most significant failures of this national government and in particular the minister responsible for the legislation.
    A blanket ban should have been put in place in the first instance. Shops licensed by the state to sell drugs on behalf of drug importers and chemist manufacturers is just a nonsense. The only decent part of the current bill is this crap has been removed from our dairies and sweet shops.

    I’m all for picketing the retailers and making customers cross the line to purchase. In a better world we’d be able to hand out flyers for free addiction services and health care rather than name and shame.
    Perhaps the minister would consider, maybe via private members bill, a hefty windfall tax on the retail outlets and importers as a way of covering the cost to society their ‘work’ has had on our communities.

    • One of, if not the most significant failures of this national government and in particular the minister responsible for the legislation.

      I think there was near universal cross-party support (from memory John Banks opposed it due to the possibility of animal testing).

      A blanket ban should have been put in place in the first instance.

      That was ruled out as impractical if not impossible, it’s very difficult to ban products that are unknown and therefore undefinable.

      • The Al1en 7.1.1

        “That was ruled out as impractical if not impossible, it’s very difficult to ban products that are unknown and therefore undefinable.”

        Bullshit, simple as that. Government didn’t have to legislate for licensing drug shops, just like they didn’t have to detail ingredients or link each product to a test regime. A blanket ban on all legal highs would have sufficed. The only complainants would have been the dealers and importers.

        “I think there was near universal cross-party support”

        And that reduces the failure of the government and minister how exactly?

        ps: That’s rhetorical, I already know the answer, and besides, I don’t value your opinion, especially since you’ve inferred I’m a liar on previous occasions. 😉

      • weka 7.1.2

        “A blanket ban should have been put in place in the first instance.”

        “That was ruled out as impractical if not impossible, it’s very difficult to ban products that are unknown and therefore undefinable.”

        How so?

      • Draco T Bastard 7.1.3

        That was ruled out as impractical if not impossible, it’s very difficult to ban products that are unknown and therefore undefinable.

        All psychoactive products are banned until they’ve passed the necessary safety tests.
        Any product sold as non-psychoactive but are found later to be psychoactive will result in the seller and supplier spending a very long time in prison and have a hefty fine.

        See, not hard at all.

        • weka 7.1.3.1

          It’s difficult to define psychoactive in legal terms, which is why our current legislation names specific substances. Psychoactive means affects the mind. We have many substances that affect the mind (including lots of foods). A blanket ban would mean chocolate was illegal. And coffee.

          Also, much of what we deem problematic in terms of psycho-activity is culturally based rather than being a given that it’s dangerous or damaging.

          I’m guessing that the reasons that PG refers to are because ‘synthetic cannabis’ is a whole range of substances, and they’re probably coming up with new ones all the time. If you can’t name them, then how do you legislate? Am betting there are other countries that have manage this though.

          I still don’t buy the ‘it’s too difficult’ excuse. I think it’s more to do with wanting to strike a balance between public health and the capitalist imperative to be able to sell shit. Probably the relative ignorance of the MPs involved too.

          • Pete George 7.1.3.1.1

            Add Coca Cola and Pepsi to that too. Some might even claim sugar causes highs.

            As far as I know other countries have struggled to deal with the rapid introduction of new substances that circumvent existing laws and are looking at our approach with interest, it’s internationally considered innovative.

          • Draco T Bastard 7.1.3.1.2

            I’m guessing that the reasons that PG refers to are because ‘synthetic cannabis’ is a whole range of substances, and they’re probably coming up with new ones all the time.

            Which is why you have a blanket ban on psychoactive substances. You’d probably need to state some sort of level/dosage/effect so as not to catch things like coffee and chocolate.

            • Pete George 7.1.3.1.2.1

              That sounds simple. So you have a defined maximum intake (or blood level?) of coffee. And chocolate. And cannabis. And alcohol.

              If you smoked a joint while having a café mocha and then had a few drinks of Baileys what level would you set?

              That would be much easier than trying to ban based on effect.

              • Draco T Bastard

                That sounds simple. So you have a defined maximum intake (or blood level?) of coffee. And chocolate. And cannabis. And alcohol.

                No. You have a clause that says:
                If a normal dose causes any of the following symptoms (list of symptoms) then it is a psychoactive substance and comes under this act.

                One glass (ie, dose) of alcohol causes measurable inebriation. One mug of coffee, on the other hand, has no measurable effect and thus would not be considered a psychoactive substance.

                • weka

                  One mug of coffee is actually psychoactive for someone who’s never drunk it before. The issue then becomes what is the degree of psychoactivity that the govt believes is harmful. Who gets to decide that?

                  Not really any such thing as a normal does when it comes to recreational drugs, especially for ones where people build tolerance.

                  Dose related to symptoms is dependent on the substance, how it is prepared, the physiology and body weight of the person taking it and their sensitivity etc. With something like cannabis, you can include where and how it was grown and what strain was used. As much as I hate to agree with PG, it’s difficult to define psychoactive in the way you are suggesting.

                  The amount of work involved in establishing which substances fit the definition that means they come under the act would be huge. Would love to see the govt trying to determine what a normal dose of morning glory seeds are 😉 I just don’t believe that what you are suggesting is useful, nor that the govt would do it well.

                  • Draco T Bastard

                    One mug of coffee is actually psychoactive for someone who’s never drunk it before.

                    [citation needed]

                    Not really any such thing as a normal does when it comes to recreational drugs, especially for ones where people build tolerance.

                    We don’t legislate for tolerance with alcohol and driving.

                    As much as I hate to agree with PG, it’s difficult to define psychoactive in the way you are suggesting.

                    No it’s not. The process for testing for any form of inebriation is already well known. And most of the psychoactive plants and chemicals are also already known. These would automatically come under the act. Any new substance would be tested until it was known and it couldn’t be brought to market until it was which is the real point. The present legal highs got onto the market because such a simple ban didn’t exist and now we’re having to deal with the consequences.

                    The amount of work involved in establishing which substances fit the definition that means they come under the act would be huge.

                    And that’s a problem because?

                    Would love to see the govt trying to determine what a normal dose of morning glory seeds are

                    I suspect all we’d need to do is ask the people who use that particular species for its psychedelic properties.

  7. vto 8

    Had some this morning in fact. Good quick buzz and then an hour later all over and back to the chores. Nothing like the natural cannabis. Addictive. Very bad for the body. Ban it.

    • Rogue Trooper 8.1

      🙂 (cough, cough, splutter, etc) Dreadful stuff, just dreadful, kinda like the blended Scotch following a Talisker that i know nothing about…

  8. Pasupial 9

    I was looking for ODT articles to link to an earlier comment, when I came accross this:

    The owner of a South Invercargill legal high shop attacked by arsonists early yesterday says he had no doubt he has been targeted by people who want to put him out of business… had a brick with a threatening note thrown through his shop window about a year ago… “They could have burnt down the whole [South City] mall. Someone could have been killed.”… said he sometimes stayed in the [upstairs] flat but was not there on Thursday night…

    CCTV footage showed a vehicle and two men outside the shop. ”One guy whacked the shop window with a baseball bat about 15 times and the other guy threw a fireball in. It was probably a Molotov cocktail, but I don’t know that for sure. All you could see on the footage was a fireball.”

    Two weeks ago, a man posted a message on a Facebook open group page offering to ”burn down every synthetic legal-high shop in Invercargill” if he was paid $2000.

    http://www.odt.co.nz/regions/southland/297785/legal-high-shop-arson-attack

    I hope that Shane Henderson (post author) and the other organizers of this today’s protest come out with a statement condemning this act. Otherwise, I’m strongly tempted to go buy some for myself and head on down to the local event to breathe the smoke it in their faces!( Or at least put something else in the packet which I’d roll-up from – I’m not so keen on smoking the stuff itself).

    Though to be fair (near bottom of article):

    Elisabeth Noble Merito, an outspoken anti-legal-high campaigner and protest co-organiser, said yesterday she did not know who had set fire to the shop and did not condone the action… The arson had damaged the efforts of groups trying to use legal means such as petitions and submissions to get legal highs banned, she said.
    ”We don’t want trouble. Let’s focus on what we can do legally. Let’s go about this the right way.”

    Finally, this; from the man whose shop has been attacked, seems a quite valid question:

    ”Do the protesters want to see us [licensed shops] close down and for the industry to go into the hands of criminals and the black market?”

    • Shane Henderson 9.1

      Of course I don’t agree with this sort of vigilante justice, I don’t think anything good comes from throwing bricks through windows. This incident however does illustrate to me that the wider community has real anger. Not mere dissatisfaction and disapproval, real unbridled anger.

      You know, I’ve been thinking a lot about this question of the fear of the stuff just going underground. Where I’m at right now is that look, say we ban it and drive it underground, I hate to say it but if you’re looking for drugs and dealing with some shady characters to do so, why would you even choose synthetics? In other words, there will always be people doing this, will that number increase through banning synthetics? And will we be able to operate harm reduction even with the stuff being illegal? These are important questions. Many people I’ve talked to have an honestly held belief that because synthetics are legal, they must be ok. If banned, this attitude would change.

      I get that there is a fear of it going underground and being controlled by gangs. That’s a good question. To me though, the situation at the moment gives it state approval essentially, and makes it a ton more accessible to people that wouldn’t otherwise do drugs because of lack of opportunity and/or money

      • Draco T Bastard 9.1.1

        I get that there is a fear of it going underground and being controlled by gangs.

        Legalise marijuana and no one would be going underground to get the present legal highs.

    • Draco T Bastard 9.2

      Finally, this; from the man whose shop has been attacked, seems a quite valid question:

      Actually, it’s not. The question is if the so-called legal highs should be available at all.

  9. Sookie 10

    I don’t understand the appeal of this crap at all, but one possible reason for the proliferation of party pills and now fake weed is that actual drugs (apart from real weed) have always been quite difficult to buy in NZ. When I did my OE over a decade ago London was full of kiwis whacked out on E’s, speed and coke, just because they wanted to try all this stuff they couldn’t buy at home. It was usually just a phase for most people, but some really lost it. I’m in favour of legalising all drugs, but as that is too radical for pretty much everyone, just legalise weed. It could be a real selling point for NZ. It is ridiculous to keep it illegal just because a tiny minority of people might react badly to it. Alcohol and these pathetic fake drugs are obviously worse.

  10. TightyRighty 11

    Legalise MDMA and weed. It’s fairly simple. If liqour and tobacco are legal, these should be too.

    Synthetic cannabis is horrible rubbish.

    • tc 11.1

      Agreed and you remove a revenue stream from crooks as it can be indulged in legally.

      Resources are scarce and need to be focused on meth which is addictive, damaging and dangerous. Ex narcs detectives have said as much.

      Breaking bad isnt whats happening in all those meth labs around nz its low quality and high on damage.

    • geoff 11.2

      First sensible thing you’ve ever said, tighty.

      But why stop at just weed and ecstasy?

    • Huginn 11.3

      Absolutely to both of these.

  11. risildowgtn 12

    Ban it

    A friend of mines son has ended up in psych ward in Palmy through using that legal highs shit a couple of times..

    Decriminalize pot. and you take it out of the tinny houses or whatever you call them.

    Take it out of the gangs power. Tax it

    Regulate it like it is currently been done in Colorado….

    • weka 12.1

      Why tax it?

      • risildowgtn 12.1.1

        Why not? everything else is taxed

        In Colorado they now have weed dispensary’s.. and yeah they pay tax on it.

        Those who are chronically ill can now legally pay for their medicinal pot and not worry they’re breaking the law and get natural pain relief. Watch the video above..

        • weka 12.1.1.1

          We don’t tax water or air (or many other things). Yet.

          You don’t have to tax cannabis to make it available. So again I ask, why tax it?

          • risildowgtn 12.1.1.1.1

            Have you even watched the video above?

            • weka 12.1.1.1.1.1

              not enough broadband data (plus I’m not in the habit of watching videos with no explanation of what they are). Can you not explain why cannabis should be taxed?

              Medical marijuana is a different issue. Where cannabis is being processed into a drug for medical reasons, that should be dealt with via the usual systems. But you don’t need to tax cannabis to do that.

              • BM

                For a start it would have GST added to it.
                Also a levy would have to be placed on it to offset health costs like cigs and booze.

                • weka

                  What health costs?

                  If cannabis is being sold commerically then GST is a given. I was asking about additional tax.

        • felix 12.1.1.2

          “Why not? everything else is taxed”

          Not in the way you suggest. There’s GST on most goods and services, and income or company tax on the money received from selling those goods and services.

          Why are you suggesting there should be more tax on top of all of that?

      • Colonial Viper 12.1.2

        Forces it to be part of a more highly regulated reporting and enforcement structure. Increases the price to dissuade high volume use. Generates income for local and central govt to re-spend into communities, depending on how the taxes are structured.

  12. RedBaronCV 13

    Make the only location within 20 metres of the of the local cop shop and have a cctv camera running 24/7 with an internet/copshop feed. So everyone and their Mum can see who is buying.Too bad if there aren’t any premises available in that exact area. Or make the middle of the motorway the only legal spot.

    I hadn’t been following this but its absolute rubbish isn’t it. If we can license retailers to sell this stuff then we can presumably ban exactly the same stuff that they are licensed to sell.

    Surely we could go the other way around, leave tobacco and alcohol as legal, decriminalise cannabis and then a blanket ban for everything else. So legalise the ones we allow and everything else by definition is illegal.

    • just saying 13.1

      nutmeg?

    • Bill 13.2

      Legalise all natural substances…mushrooms, nutmeg, poppies, grass, digitalis etc and provide useful indepth info on use/dosage etc that steers away from sensationalist scaremongering but that still includes possible and realistic hazards/downsides. (Not too many people will be keen on the digitalis, given good info, y’know?)

      • weka 13.2.1

        +1

        Then regulate substances that need to be made in a lab.

      • One Anonymous Bloke 13.2.2

        That’s my feeling: if you can grow it, ok, if not, apply for a licence and be prepared for clinical trials.

        • Roy 13.2.2.1

          It’s a lot safer to take your morphine or digitalis in pill form from a pharmaceutical company that it is to chow down on homegrown poppy or foxglove. The amount of digitalis in a foxglove leaf varies wildly depending on growing conditions and you could easily poison yourself with the amount that had not hurt you a hundred times before.

          • weka 13.2.2.1.1

            and because of that most people aren’t going to bother. You can also offer education and harm minimisation resources when you decriminalise.

            You might want to look up the rates of death and illness from taking legal pharmaceuticals. The idea that natural substances are inherently more dangerous is inaccurate.

          • Rogue Trooper 13.2.2.1.2

            been there, had the ECG.

  13. I must admit to being a bit concerned at the paternalistic tone of some of the reporting on synthetic highs, specifically around people who have serious mental health issues like schizophrenia. I would prefer to hear from those people themselves. I appreciate it can be difficult for people whose relatives have issues like this, but I think there are a lot of risks involved: as you’ve said in your post, Shane, you appreciated Una Macnaughton’s bravery in telling ‘her personal story’.

    To be honest, it isn’t her personal story. It’s her son’s (and he’s 21, not ‘a boy’.) He’s clearly going through an incredibly tough time. Maybe synthetic cannabis is the one thing which helps him control his symptoms. Maybe natural cannabis would be even better. But in the kind of summary we get from that Herald article, there’s no nuance, just a basic ‘bought Kronic, got schizophrenia, is crazy and dangerous, ergo ban synthetic cannabis’ narrative.

    There’s certainly no statement from a qualified psychiatrist to establish that the Kronic gave him schizophrenia (and there are studies which show no link between cannabis causing schizophrenia). But that’s the obvious implication, and I don’t think this issue needs scaremongering. Untested substances with damaging side effects should be regulated. It’s common sense.

    I also think there have to be other factors in play which explain why people are ‘queuing’ up to get synthetic cannabis. There aren’t jobs, there aren’t opportunities to get ahead, our government is grinding people down to benefit the wealthy and eroding our ideas of community and solidarity. Making synthetic cannabis the focus of our outrage is a lot easier than addressing those things – but it won’t address the underlying issues, and people will just find other risky ways to escape.

    • Colonial Viper 14.1

      Young people are being long term damaged by this stuff every day. You can often see them hanging out around the Octagon, staring into space, hardly responsive, unable to string a coherent sentence together.

      You think that their employment prospects were poor before using synthetic highs? What kind of employment prospects do these kids have afterwards?

      Making synthetic cannabis the focus of our outrage is a lot easier than addressing those things – but it won’t address the underlying issues, and people will just find other risky ways to escape.

      That’s very true but those underlying issues will take years to address. No political party even has the guts to talk about a full employment policy for 25s and under, for instance.

      Meanwhile, young people are being damaged every day.

      The synthetic stuff should be made an R20 product, if it is kept at all. Plus the natural stuff should be legalised and comprehensively regulated.

      • I don’t think I said anything about young people’s employment prospects being damaged by using synthetic highs. Could you explain how you got that from my post?

        What I was saying, much as others have said in this discussion, is that the synthetic cannabis is more a symptom of society’s problems than a standalone problem itself. And once again, I see assumptions being made – how do you know for certain whether those people in the Octagon are taking synthetic cannabis, alcohol, cannabis, sniffing glue, or anything at all?

        • Colonial Viper 14.1.1.1

          Hi Stephanie,

          Just wondering if you have spent any significant time with young people who used or were involved somehow with synthetic highs, in the last couple of months? I have. That’s how I formulated my opinions (which of course I am willing to change). Just wondering how did you formulate yours?

          What I was saying, much as others have said in this discussion, is that the synthetic cannabis is more a symptom of society’s problems than a standalone problem itself.

          So, let’s manage the acute symptoms, not ignore them, while getting on and dealing with the underlying cause of the condition.

          • Stephanie Rodgers 14.1.1.1.1

            Is this like ‘you don’t have children so you’re not allowed to have opinions on smacking’? It sounds very similar. And I note that in your first comment you made no mention of this up-close-and-person experience you’ve had; you simply noted that ‘you can often see’ young people in the Octagon looking wasted.

            You also haven’t addressed my question (about where I had said anything about ‘young people’s employment prospects being damaged’). Both your responses to me have actually been pretty off-topic insofar as relating to what I’ve actually said.

            And you’ve ignored the actual point of my (and others’) objections: the kind of reaction we’re seeing to synthetic cannabis is clearly not about ‘managing the acute symptoms and dealing with the underlying cause of the condition’. The underlying cause is being ignored, and the symptom is being treated as the sole, independent problem which must be fixed through prohibition.

            • Colonial Viper 14.1.1.1.1.1

              And you’ve ignored the actual point of my (and others’) objections: the kind of reaction we’re seeing to synthetic cannabis is clearly not about ‘managing the acute symptoms and dealing with the underlying cause of the condition’. The underlying cause is being ignored, and the symptom is being treated as the sole, independent problem which must be fixed through prohibition.

              Not disagreeing with you. But it’s best to staunch the victim’s blood loss first before trying to organise a prosecution.

              Is this like ‘you don’t have children so you’re not allowed to have opinions on smacking’? It sounds very similar.

              Of course you are welcome to your opinions, but I was interested in whether your opinion was mainly from up close and personal experience or mostly from intellectualisation and theory. Of course I will admit that I am very frequently guilty of the latter…

              • To use your rather unfortunate analogy, there’s also no point trying to staunch blood loss if the victim is still holding a knife and is going to find another bit to stab as soon as you do.

                All I’m asking, Viper, is that we consider the wider issues. That’s something I’m seeing happen in the comments here, which is great, but not so much in hand-wringing posts like Shane’s, or the television coverage of the rallies on this evening’s news (where I did have to laugh at the number of signs at the Waitakere rally which had clearly been written on the backs of liquor ad hoardings from supermarkets …)

      • Pete 14.1.2

        I think there should be a royal commission, or at least a ministerial inquiry, into drug policy. Bring in the experts from Washington, Colorado, Portugal and the Netherlands. See what the experience was in those countries. We are lucky in New Zealand that our borders are quite strong against cocaine, heroin, MDMA, LSD and other hard drugs. If cannabis is legalised, it would deal a heavy blow to gangs and organised crime in this country.

        • Colonial Viper 14.1.2.1

          Yep…and as a society we could avoid the costs of criminalising a lot of young people…who co-incidentally tend to be from poorer and browner backgrounds….

          • Murray Olsen 14.1.2.1.1

            I don’t think that’s coincidental at all. The War on Drugs actually began in the US and A as a war on young blacks, which was easily transplanted to our shores. You can see who’s targeted in the States when you look at the different approaches taken to cocaine, the glamorous white powder used by WASPs, and crack, the filthy addictive violence inducing substance used by rampaging young violent criminals. I’ve always seen drug legislation as just another measure of social control, used to bring in laws and enforcement techniques which can be used against the enemies of capital, should they ever become militant. These days, the War on Terror plays much the same role.

    • weka 14.2

      “There’s certainly no statement from a qualified psychiatrist to establish that the Kronic gave him schizophrenia”

      That would be because psychiatry is still relatively clueless about many things. I’ll put as much value on the opinion of expert drug users as I will on psychiatrists. I agree with the general point you are making about not equating synthetic cannabis use with causing schizophrenia, but then perhaps we should apply the same rationality to mainstream understandings of mental illness which are often theoretical at best.

      I also agree with the point about whose story was being used in the article and why. More care is needed here.

    • Shane Henderson 14.3

      For sure, I appreciate the comment. And yes hearing from the people involved themselves is the way to go, like I said there is no more powerful voice for change than that. I perhaps misspoke in saying it is ‘her’ story and I apologise because in fact it is a story of the whole whanau. Family, friends and of course her son himself. There will be thousands of these stories in NZ right now.

      In these stories, a causal link is what those whanau are perceiving and I have talked to plenty of people that have told me straight up their son/daughter/grandchild started smoking the stuff and it messed them up. That’s what they have told me they see in their family member, and because I don’t live their life I don’t want to question that and don’t feel I’m in a position to.

      And you’re right in that we need to look at the whole context of why people turn to these drugs. People are struggling out there, and of course I want to address the underlying issues and on all of those things I agree with you.

      But we also cannot conquer Everest in one leap, and I think (while not losing sight of the context as you say), we need to also identify specific things we can do to improve outcomes for our people and get on with addressing them. So is our legislative framework spot on or does it need work? And assuming it doesn’t change, what do we do about it as a community?

      • weka 14.3.1

        How many of the people getting active to make change on this are also supporting or advocating legalising cannabis? I’m curious to know what parts of the community are involved and their general attitude towards recreational drug use and self medicating.

        • Shane Henderson 14.3.1.1

          Cheers Weka, in my patch it seems people fit broadly into three camps: (1) people that want to decriminalise cannabis for their own reasons, (2) people that would support de-criminalising it to combat the synthetic problem and (3) people that want to treat both issues completely seperately. Hard to say but I think they all come out pretty much even as well. Would be interested to hear the answer to that question for other parts of NZ

          • Murray Olsen 14.3.1.1.1

            My own reasons for legalisation are that I think it’s obscene to make so many of our people criminals for puffing on a basically harmless herb. I think legalisation would improve our society, which is the litmus test for anything I support. I haven’t touched marijuana for almost 40 years. I can’t see the point in synthetics when the real thing can be grown so easily. I live in Brisbane, but am from Auckland and parts North.

    • Huginn 14.4

      I’m not convinced by this ‘took X – caught schizophrenia’ business.

      I think that a lot of people with mental health issues use street drugs in their teens and twenties because they are trying to self medicate.

      • That’s exactly the kind of thing I meant – I’ve known many people for whom cannabis was a relief for their mental health issues, and they figured that out well before a medical practitioner actually wrote the words ‘depression’ or ‘schizophrenia’ or ‘anxiety’ down on a bit of paper.

        • weka 14.4.1.1

          People self-medicating doesn’t preclude cannabis putting some people at risk of mental health problems or exacerbation. I don’t believe that cannabis causes schizophrenia, but I have no problem believing that people already at risk get pushed over an edge while using cannabis. To what extent cannabis is a causative factor I don’t know, but modern strains can be very intense and have incredibly strong effects on the mind. The idea that cannabis is always benign is pretty unhelpful IMO.

          • Huginn 14.4.1.1.1

            I agree with you here, Weka. I wasn’t trying to say that self-medication was benign.

            • weka 14.4.1.1.1.1

              oops, confusion… I wasn’t saying that self-medicating wasn’t benign 🙂

              People self-medicate. I don’t see anything inherently wrong with that. For people with mental health issues of a certain kind (we all have mental health after all), lots of things that affect wellbeing and physiology are going to put them at risk. I don’t have a problem with including drugs in that (including psych meds, cannabis, and synthetic cannabis). We don’t have to know what the exact cause and effects are to start assessing risk.

              “I’m not convinced by this ‘took X – caught schizophrenia’ business.”

              I don’t think it’s fair to characterise the issue in those terms. Mental illness is very poorly defined and dealt with in NZ. Blaming drugs, or trying to avoid blaming drugs are two sides of the same coin IMO.

          • Stephanie Rodgers 14.4.1.1.2

            I never said ‘cannabis is always benign’, weka. I said I’ve known many people for whom it was helpful.

            • weka 14.4.1.1.2.1

              and I never said that you did. The last sentence of my comment needs to be understood in the context of the rest of my comment and the overall debate.

              • Even in that context it doesn’t make a lot of sense. I can’t see anyone saying ‘cannabis is always benign’. A lot of people are arguing that natural cannabis is safer than synthetic highs, but that’s not the same thing, and I don’t think it helps a constructive conversation to mis-characterize what the other side is saying.

                I’m also not seeing anyone ‘trying to avoid blaming drugs’, which is another assertion you’ve made above. What people (including myself) are trying to do is point out, exactly as you said, that mental illness is poorly defined and dealt with, and in this conversation we have several examples of the ‘took drugs, showed symptoms, ergo drugs caused mental illness’ assumption being made.

                If we really want to ‘assess risk’ around mental illness and drugs, it’s helpful to deal in facts, not assumptions, and not making sweeping general statements about what people who disagree with you are saying or thinking.

                • just saying

                  For what it’s worth, and as I understand it, the correlational studies put the increased risk of schizophrenia (diagnosis) from cannabis use at the same level as the increased risk with immigration. You don’t hear a lot of people suggesting we ban immigration because it “causes” schizophrenia.

                • weka

                  “I can’t see anyone saying ‘cannabis is always benign’.”

                  We obviously move in different circles. It’s a pretty common assertion amongst parts of the pro-cannabis population that I’ve known over the last 30 years.

                  “A lot of people are arguing that natural cannabis is safer than synthetic highs, but that’s not the same thing, and I don’t think it helps a constructive conversation to mis-characterize what the other side is saying.”

                  I don’t see only two sides here, nor know which sides you are referring to, so not sure what to make of that comment.

                  “If we really want to ‘assess risk’ around mental illness and drugs, it’s helpful to deal in facts, not assumptions,”

                  Part of the problem is that ‘facts’ are incredibly hard to come by in this area. We don’t even really know that much about schizophrenia and current psychiatric perspectives are limited and hotly contested by people with mental health disabilities within the anti-/beyond psychiatry and psych survivor movements. Nor do we know that much about cannabis, and apparently not synthetic cannabis.

                  I think people’s experiences are important here because of that. Nothing wrong with anecdote when it’s used appropriately. I’ll take risk assessments from expert drug users just as seriously as ‘facts’ established by science (assuming that is what you meant, it’s a bit unclear).

                  Having said all that, I don’t know who or what you mean by ‘assumptions’. Here is what I said –

                  “People self-medicating doesn’t preclude cannabis putting some people at risk of mental health problems or exacerbation. I don’t believe that cannabis causes schizophrenia, but I have no problem believing that people already at risk get pushed over an edge while using cannabis. To what extent cannabis is a causative factor I don’t know, but modern strains can be very intense and have incredibly strong effects on the mind. The idea that cannabis is always benign is pretty unhelpful IMO.”

                  Apart from your thinking that the last sentence was talking about you (it wasn’t), I don’t really understand what you object to about what I said.

                  “and not making sweeping general statements about what people who disagree with you are saying or thinking.”

                  I don’t think that is what I am doing, and I suspect you are reading more into my comments than is there with regard to your own. You could try checking out with me if you think I have said something unfair about your comments.

        • Rogue Trooper 14.4.1.2

          This

    • the pigman 14.5

      +1

  14. risildowgtn 15

    15 years ago I lost my dad through a drunk driver taking him out.

    I came back from Europe and we buried him, stayed couple months and left again.

    My Mom died 7 years ago of cancer and she had never smoked even a cig let alone weed.

    After she had chemo well I wont go into the horrid side effects of that on here, they had serious problems getting her pain medication right. The old 1 size fits all was applied here and the pain meds had serious side effects … SO…….

    She asked me to score her some weed and so I did cos it was the right thing to do.
    I felt not one bit in the slightest a criminal for doing this

    My Moms last 8 months of her life were horrible as the cancer quickly returned BUT were relatively pain free thanks to the weed. which she didnt smoke but ingested through other means 🙂

    Its about quality of life at the end of the day and I was determined to make sure she got that.

    NZ is well over due for some serious drug reforms.

    Ban this synth crap. its vile and makes people psychotic.
    I nearly cried watching that lady on TV last night talking re her son and her experiences of him while on that shit and I felt her pain.

  15. joe90 16

    This.

    What’s not to like about a study that says medical marijuana’s legalization may lead to lower crime rates.

    http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0092816

    Press release:

    “We’re cautious about saying, ‘Medical marijuana laws definitely reduce homicide.’ That’s not what we’re saying,” Morris said. “The main finding is that we found no increase in crime rates resulting from medical marijuana legalization. In fact, we found some evidence of decreasing rates of some types of violent crime, namely homicide and assault.

    Open mike 29/03/2014

  16. captain hook 17

    every adicition has as its primary goal to prevent the addict feeling their true thoughts and feelings.
    what is it about New Zealand society that creates so many addicts?
    getting hot under the collar and firebombing stores is a typical kneejerk New Zealand reaction and refusal to deal with the real problem.
    in the meantime legalise the natural stuff so people can grown their own.
    at the moment the whole deal is big business for the justice industry who make more money out of it than the purveyors.

  17. tricledrown 18

    Peter Dunnes explanation on synthetic cannibis is pure BS.
    Because its tested its safe.
    While Marajuana has known harmful effects more BS.
    99% of people with mental health problems have substance abuse problems.
    That has been proven that mentally I’ll people are way more prone to abusing drugs.
    Countries and states where cannibus has been decriminilized usage plato’s then goes down.
    Alcohol causes up to 75% of reported crime the polices own stats.
    Yet the $6 billion a year damage alcohol does is overlooked and is allowed to be glamourized in advertising while all other drugs combined do less than 5% damage.
    No wonder the war on drugs is a failure other than helping fund criminal gangs.

    • weka 18.1

      “99% of people with mental health problems have substance abuse problems.”

      I think that number is way too high. Am curious where it comes from, but would guess it comes from the mental health system or justice system, where we tend to shunt people with mental health issues because we don’t know what else to do (or don’t want to help any more).

      “That has been proven that mentally I’ll people are way more prone to abusing drugs.”

      Or self-medicating. Let’s try and not ascribe negatives to people’s choices or needs. That drug use is equated to abuse is part of the problem.

  18. shorts 19

    I’m a synthetic cannabis user – have been so for over a year now… and have “abused” recreational drugs for over 30 years, most of which has seen me use something on a daily basis

    I’m also employed in a (sometimes) high stress & responsible job, pay my bills on time and contribute in a positive way to the countries tax take

    In my experience so far with this stuff:

    The synthetic is cheaper – a $20 spend is enough for me to have a smoke a night for a fortnight, natural cannabis and I’d be looking at $100 spent… my habit is a smoke after the kids are in bed, enjoyed whilst I watch a TV show or two before bed, a nightcap if you will. I substituted boozer for this regime about a decade ago, used to be a heavy drinker now hardly bother (binge drinker when I do – happily so)

    I am concerned about the stories concerning those who have been really adversely effected as I don’t wish to be a victim… but also discount most as like with the BZP based pills (well all drugs) I’ve never come across anyone whose had such a reaction and discount a lot of the fear mongering stories (as evidenced here) as they have no basis in fact, only assumption – child has episode parents leap to blame synthetic cannabis start or join witch hunt (refer all anti drug paranoia since recreational drugs were first demonised and made illegal)

    The positives imo

    the high doesn’t last as long and is generally not as consuming – I can function, sometimes a bit dozy and sometimes more energised (depending on mood I assume). If something needed my attention like an emergency as long as I don’t have to drive, which I could probably do but would never put myself in the position to endanger others, I believe I could cope with most mild emergencies – anything extreme and well I’m not sure of my capabilities straight and sober so can’t comment
    cost as pointed out above
    availability, can pop into a store in town on payday and get my fortnights fix
    its legal
    compared to natural stuff the “stoneover” is mild to non existent, I don’t bumble through the morning at work vague as -my job requires my mind not my physical abilities

    The negatives imo

    occasional heightened paranoia (way less so than natural stuff) and I do worry about long term effects as my reading and research on these substances suggest they aren’t good for me and are way more dangerous than the natural stuff (mild understatement)
    its not my preference, would rather have natural stuff but the hassle of purchase and legal issues at my time of life are now real concerns and considerations, unlike when younger

    Compared to alcohol I personally believe they are much safer – though prone to abuse much the same and thus there are and will be casualties

    And this is the problem – its how these users are using these substances (refer to their use of alcohol to see similar problems), its the binge culture that is the concern not them indulging in what should be a little bit of harmless (to degrees) fun.

    I advocate for all recreational drugs to be legalised (regulated heavily and taxed accordingly) and treated as a health issue – not a justice one.

    I also suggest strong education around use so people can make the most informed decisions as to what to try and how it might effect them – be prepared.

    I am also of the mind that parents should be talking to their children, allowing open and frank discussions about what their kids do themselves and when with their friends (refer education). Instead of finding out when its too late to mitigate the potential harm.

    Parents and communities have to be proactive not reactive like this post is – these are not some demon destroying communities… poverty, a lack of hope and opportunity is the demon in that regard… legal and illegal recreational drugs (especially booze) are the gateway out of some peoples day to day grind, if you feel your life sucks….

    In short if you are on a community board better to find positive things for the youth (and good jobs for the them and adults) in your community to engage and rally your community into funding and supporting those things than fighting a battle you can not win in any manner than shifting the problem some place else.

    No disrespect Shane but you come across as uninformed and are leading the baying mob against a problem that won’t go away by banning things – good luck to you and them to find a solution to the problems of our youth, I am sure it isn’t drug use (for the majority) its the real things our politicians refuse to address (as already stated in the thread)

    • weka 19.1

      Good input. Am curious, how many of your social and work circles use synthetic cannabis?

      “And this is the problem – its how these users are using these substances (refer to their use of alcohol to see similar problems), its the binge culture that is the concern not them indulging in what should be a little bit of harmless (to degrees) fun.”

      People use drugs for all sorts of reasons. Self-medicating is no less legitimate than recreational use.

      Part of the issue that’s not well looked at is that it’s not just how and why people use, but how the drug interacts with their personal neurology and biochemistry.

      Why do you think that drugs should be heavily regulated and taxed?

    • Marksman 19.2

      Well said Shorts,lets get some reality back in here.You want to legalise or decrim cannabis you better start hassling the breweries,it’s them that lobby hard against.Have done for decades.

    • Rogue Trooper 19.3

      Beeeuteeful shorts.

  19. The main problem with dealing with the cannabis side if this equation in New Zealand is political.

    It’s all very well saying we should just blanket ban something or just legalise something but that’s not how politics or laws works, they are both complex.

    I’ve made inquiries about addressing it and a credible source said that cannabis law won’t be looked at while National is in government. That’s no surprise it won’t happen under National – unless Key turns the argument around like he did with gay marriage, but I’ve seen no indication he would. Or unless a strong negotiator insists on it as part of a coalition deal.

    It’s obviously not just a problem with National. What’s Labour’s position on cannabis law, does anyone know? And what priority?

    Russel Norman was asked about it last weekend on The Nation.

    And that could include carrying on fracking, now decriminalisation of cannabis. We had Colin Craig on here, he spoke to Simon a few weeks ago – we asked him this, have you ever smoked a joint? Have you ever smoked a joint?

    Yeah, yeah, of course I’ve smoked a joint.

    Yeah, so decriminalisation of cannabis, that’s a Green party policy, it’s been a Green party policy down the ages. Will you pursue that in a Labour/Green government?

    It’s still part of our policy and so whether it’s part of the priorities – so what we do is before each election is we announce our ten point priority list, right? And we did it last time and we’ll do it again this time and so in any post-election negotiations, you’ll know the what are the key areas we’re going to prioritise. So, I doubt –

    So where will that be?

    Yeah, yes. So I doubt – we haven’t decided it, right? 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.

    Sure, ok. So, decriminalisation, you’re not into it really. But the TPP –

    Well, no Paddy. You can paraphrase it like that, but it doesn’t mean that we –

    But let’s move on…

    http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO1403/S00420/the-nation-29314-patrick-gower-interviews-russel-norman.htm

    If the Greens aren’t interested then who will push it in Parliament?

    • weka 20.1

      “If the Greens aren’t interested then who will push it in Parliament?”

      Fuck off Pete. All Norman said was that it wasn’t in the top ten pre-election list. Doesn’t mean the GP isn’t interested.

      • Pete George 20.1.1

        He pretty much ruled it out of any coalition negotiations. If they don’t give it a priority at that level who is? Winston? Colin Craig? Hone Harawira?

        Greens seem to think they own pro-cannabis in Parliament. How long have they been in Parliament? What have they done about it? What have they achieved?

        Weka, you tried to grizzle about me not blogging enough on cannabis. Try a search on the Green website. The first hit is Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Amendment Bill, not dated. The second hit has Nandor tagged, that’s not very recent. Same with the third. Try grizzling to them.

        On The Nation Norman came across as saying yeah, nah. They’re not interested because they have bigger priorities and it looks to me like they don’t want to risk any of that with cannabis.

        Whoever forms the next government the prospects for cannabis law reform don’t look great to me. Is anyone else optimistic?

        • weka 20.1.1.1

          He didn’t say they weren’t interested. Ruling it out of coalition negotiations doesn’t mean the GP has given up on it. There are plenty of other GP policies that aren’t in the top ten either, but I think you will find that they’re still considered important.

          I’m not grizzling about you not blogging about decriminalisation. I just wanted to see if there was any substance to your claim that you knowing people from the ALCP means something. There wasn’t.

  20. Lan 21

    First thing to do is realise that this is not “synthetic cannabis..ie THC) but some random probably methamphamine recipe found on the internet. Toxic, probably deadly, and untested and untestable. I do wonder about the naivety of NZ drug consumers. Madness.

  21. Tangled up 22

    A few personal observations: (which may be way off!)

    • There is a significant (and growing) amount of people that are very concerned about this issue.

    • A lot of these people aren’t usually interested in politics (ie voting)

    • If Cunliffe campaigned on getting rid of this stuff then he would tap into a good chunk of the 800,000.

    • Colonial Viper 22.1

      Smart.

    • There’s a problem with that.

      Labour, Greens crack over cannabis views

      If the Green Party had its way it would immediately allow for medicinal marijuana and legal action for violent offences would be prioritised over possession.

      The next step is decriminalisation with a legal age limit of 18. But Labour says no way.

      “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.

      Decriminalising marijuana would be a conscience vote, but with Labour playing top dog it won’t even get that far.

      So Cunliffe says nah, nah.

      Not even if the Greens pushed it?

      For one party it’s the only issue, and before joining the Greens Ms Turei was a member of the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party.

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

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

      Greens would “immediately” push for medical use except there’s no sign of them actually pushing for it is there?

      And it “won’t be one of our major priorities”.

      If the Greens are lukewarm on it, and Labour is cold on it, if you can’t even get your own side to look at it, you might as well just grizzle at others, that will be as effective as anything

    • Marksman 22.3

      Well for the first time ever Labour wouldn’t get my vote.

  22. “What do we do about synthetic cannabis?”

    I would suggest: if you want some, visit a shop that sells it. If you don’t want some, you don’t have to “do” anything.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 23.1

      What about when you recognise that synthetics manufacturers’ enormous profits are costing society gargantuan amounts in human wreckage? Reduce demand? How?

      • Psycho Milt 23.1.1

        You know what? Society is, always has been, and always will be, loaded with people busy turning themselves into human wreckage, and people busy making a profit therefrom. The options for “doing” something about it are:
        1. Laissez faire, ie not give a shit and let what will be, will be. This isn’t great as none of us like the shit that goes with open-ended numbers engaged in unrestricted wasterdom.
        2. Prohibit whatever is that wasters are into, which is demonstrably worse than laissez faire.
        3. Regulate and restrict production, supply and advertising of whatever the wasters are into – which is what we’re already doing in the case of synthetic cannabis.
        So, the least-worst option is the one we’ve already taken. Which prompts the question, “What do you mean, ‘what do we do about synthetic cannabis?’ We’re already doing the only non-shit thing.”

        • One Anonymous Bloke 23.1.1.1

          Nah, the least worse thing we can do is reduce demand by focusing on the actual problem of which society’s level of substance abuse is merely a symptom.

  23. captain hook 24

    find out where shifty key keeps his stash and make him share it round.

  24. MrSmith 25

    Get with program people, National will be sitting back Laughing at the semantics from the left on this one, Oh look over there it’s Pete Dun with his legal highs! Back to the caviar and champagne till the next distraction, Oh look Johnny the inbreeds have just arrived.

  25. nadis 26

    I like the dutch model for cannabis (even though they do have one of the largest criminal drug manufacture and distribution industries in Europe). Cannabis is still illegal, but there is a threshold for personal use where the police don’t prosecute. But we could go further. Let people grow a couple of plants, and licence commercial operators to grow and sell it. Slap R18 on it, and sell it only thru R18 sites (liquor stores etc). Allow the sale of seeds too. Allow no advertising. Whack a great big tax on it. Prosecute hard anyone who has commercial quantities that are outside the tax system. In other words treat it exactly like the alcohol industry. The personal user becomes analogous to the home brewer. Every rule that applies to alcohol would equally apply to cannabis. Allow councils to slap cannabis bans on any area they like in the same way they have liquor bans. Last thing I personally want to see is a bunch of sleepy dope smokers eating potato chips on Queen street, but in their own private space I don’t give a rats what they do. As long as it does no harm to me.

    And the most important thing – make sure we have a roadside cannabis impairment test for the police to have access to. I don’t want to get wiped out at an intersection because another driver fell asleep or made a bad call under the influence of any mind altering substance.

  26. fairfax mooresby 27

    It should be noted that the discription synthetic ‘cannabis’ is in many instances inaccurate.

    The active ingredient in cannabis is THC, so to be accurate the synthetic described would contain THC analogs (chemically and actively similar compounds with minor changes)

    A number of the products on the market have as active ingredients analogs of cocaine, meth (p) and other hard drugs.

    The only relation those have to cannabis is that viewed from 10 metres away they look kinda similar and smell funny when smoked.

    • Rogue Trooper 27.1

      hee hee

    • the pigman 27.2

      fairfax your comment, and “Lan’s” above (“its probably methamphetamine”) are lacking citations.

      Please provide evidence to support your claims that methamphetamine analogues have been found in synthetic cannabis sold in New Zealand. Naivety is a lot more forgivable than deliberate alarmist-misinformation.

      The actual chemicals in “synthetic cannabis” vary widely but their common element is that they act on the cannabinoid receptors in the brain. Hence the name synthetic cannabis.

      In New Zealand, as far as I’m aware, other than chemicals that bind with the cannabinoid receptors, the only examples of other shit in those products has been of benzodiazepam and other hypnotics. Shitty stuff, but not analogues of cocaine or meth by any measure.

      There is so much misinformation/misunderstanding/Pete Georgeism in this thread about both real cannabis and synthetic cannabis that it has been infuriating to read (and I’m not at the bottom yet).

      Please stop contributing (knowingly or unknowingly) to this morass of confusion.

  27. Richard Christie 28

    STOP REFERRING TO LEGAL HIGHS by the term “LEGAL CANNABIS”.

    It’s not bloody cannabis.

  28. Peter Dunne on New Psychoactive Substances from National Statement to United Nations Commission
    on Narcotic Drugs Meeting, Vienna, Austria
    (March 2014)

    New Psychoactive Substances (NPS)

    I want to outline New Zealand’s proposed approach to address the seemingly intractable problem of controlling NPS – a problem which affects our country and many others around the world.

    In 2012, the New Zealand Government decided that our drug laws were ineffective at dealing with the rapid growth in NPS, as new substances can be developed at such a rate that each time one is restricted several more become available, therefore keeping one step ahead of any controls. Indeed, in 2011 New Zealand had introduced interim legislation to create temporary bans on the importation, manufacture and supply of substances and banned approximately 40
    (mainly synthetic cannabis) substances in under two years.

    However, this still required the Government to identify untested and potentially harmful substances which were already being sold on an unregulated market with unknown effects on consumers. The temporary bans also seemed only to enhance the market’s efforts to replace the banned substances with new, potentially more harmful products.

    Furthermore, attempts to create ‘blanket’ bans on groups of substances in other jurisdictions appeared to have been little more effective than bans on individual chemicals.

    So we decided to take a different approach through legislation which I introduced in 2012, and was passed by Parliament in July 2013 as the Psychoactive Substances Act 2013. This legislation is intended to provide sponsors of NPS the ability to demonstrate to a national regulatory authority
    that their products meet certain safety standards – and if they do, the products may be marketed and sold from licensed retail outlets.

    We are currently operating under a transitional regime while regulations are being developed.

    However, after six months in operation the legislation has already brought about profound changes
    to the psychoactive substances market in our country. These include:
    • a product may only receive interim approval if it is considered a ‘low risk of harm’ by an expert
    committee
    • the sale of products is prohibited from convenience/grocery stores, liquor outlets and petrol
    stations
    • products are restricted to people aged 18 years and over
    • advertising of products is prohibited and there are strict controls on packaging and labelling

    There are currently around 40 products on the market with interim approval. This compares with an estimated 2-300 unregulated products on the market previously.

    All products without approval are prohibited by default.

    There are approximately 150 retailers with interim licences and a smaller number of holders of other licences such as for import, manufacture and wholesale. This compares with an estimated 3-4000 unregulated sellers prior to the legislation. A number of products have not gained approval,or have subsequently been withdrawn from the market, because they pose greater than a low risk of harm.

    Products and the activities of licence holders are being monitored by a national regulatory authority and by local police and health boards. It is early to determine outcomes of what is a unique approach to controlling NPS, but I am confident it will prove to be successful.

    New Zealand is of course willing to share its experience with other Member States.

    To those like weka (“As much as I hate to agree with PG” just because) I sourced this via a Google search as I knew Dunne had recently been in Vienna. I’ve posted it here because it’s relevant to the discussion – no implication should be taken from this about whether I agree or disagree with any of it.

  29. From NZ Herald yesterday in Legal highs linked to psychosis

    Parliament passed a law last July which aimed to remove harmful synthetic drugs, requiring them to undergo clinical trials to prove they had no more than a “low risk” of harm.

    Nine months later, 42 synthetic cannabis products with names such as “Choco Haze”, “Tai High” and “Giggle” are still listed on the Health Ministry’s website with interim licences for sale to anyone 18 or over.

    A further 150 or so that had been on sale before last July were refused licences. The law also banned sales in dairies, petrol stations and liquor stores, reducing the number of outlets from 3,000-4,000 to 147, including 50 in Auckland.

    Regulations governing the trials required under the new law are still being drafted, but Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne says products with interim licences will be able to stay on sale once the new regulations take effect in July or August as long as they submit plans for clinical trials. There will be no deadline on how long the trials take.

    New Zealand is the only country in the world to adopt a pre-market clinical trial regime for recreational drugs, after abandoning what seemed a futile cat-and-mouse game of banning one drug only to find a slightly different version on sale the next week. Other countries are still applying what Rose and other protesters want — a straight ban, worded widely enough to cover all synthetic cannabis.

    Massey University drug researcher Chris Wilkins says there is “enormous interest” overseas in New Zealand’s approach. “People can see it’s quite a radical experiment.”

    He says it could reduce harm if people move off more harmful illegal drugs on to less harmful legal ones. Or it could increase harm if it encourages law-abiding young people who shun illegal drugs to try synthetic cannabis, thinking it must be safe because it has been approved as “low risk”.

    The Health Ministry itself warns that “low risk” does not mean no risk.

    “All medicines, even low-risk products, can cause harm and have the potential to cause severe and serious adverse events including death,” it says on its website.

    “These serious events can occur due to allergy, idiosyncratic response to the active ingredient, interaction with other medicines, overdose or misuse. The situation for psychoactive products will be no different.”

    Synthetic cannabis has only been widely marketed since 2008 but there are already reports in the medical literature of serious harm.

    A 2012 German report, which the Health Ministry is using as the basis for New Zealand’s risk assessment regime, looked at 29 patients who needed emergency treatment after using synthetic cannabis between 2008 and 2011 and found the most common symptoms were accelerated heartbeat, high blood pressure, nausea, blurred vision, hallucination and agitation.

    Some suffered epileptic seizures. One developed acute psychosis. Three others in another study had heart attacks.

    The authors found it was “probable” that the synthetic products induced stronger effects than natural cannabis because they were designed to fit more exactly with receptors in the brain. The NZ Health Ministry has accepted this finding, noting that “the prevalence of specific serious adverse events appears higher in the synthetic group of products”.

    Dr Susanna Every-Palmer, a Porirua forensic psychiatrist, reported in 2011 that nine out of 13 patients at her unit who used synthetic cannabis suffered psychotic relapses in the form of agitation and delusions.

    Otago University psychologist Paul Glue reported that 13 per cent of admissions to Dunedin’s acute psychiatric unit between January and April last year had taken K2, which was later banned. Thirteen of the 17 patients involved had longstanding mental illnesses, but the other four had no previous psychotic history before taking K2.

    Professor Glue says longitudinal studies in NZ and overseas have shown that adolescents who started using natural cannabis at a young age were three to four times more likely than non-users to develop psychotic conditions such as schizophrenia.

    “We just don’t have the same amount of data for synthetics,” he says.

    “What you probably have is a number of individuals who already had a liability to develop psychosis, and other people who are lower down on the risk scale for whom, if certain things happen such as huge stress or they do a lot of drugs, they will also develop psychosis.”

    Mr Dunne says his office has rung around hospital emergency departments and found a drop in numbers presenting with synthetic cannabis-related problems since the law change last July.

    “While I’m obviously concerned about anyone having an adverse reaction, the numbers are down,” he says.

    But Dr Fraser Todd of the National Addiction Centre in Christchurch, who also works in an adolescent mental health unit, says young people with drug-induced problems “present to psychiatric emergency, not emergency departments”.

    “We are getting a number of presentations of young people with agitation, aggression, paranoia, addiction and some withdrawal symptoms from synthetic cannabis,” he says.

    “We are getting significantly more over the past few weeks coming to us like this than from cannabis. It may be just a coincidence, or it may be that there is a batch with more potent stuff in it.”

    Yet Dr Todd is “in two minds” about whether to simply ban all synthetics, given the drug-makers’ abilities to keep making new drugs. Also, the Health Ministry itself says that if alcohol was tested under the new regime it would pose “more than a low risk of harm”, yet no one suggests banning alcohol.

    “The most potent thing we can do is improve support for families and tackle poverty and those things that affect people when they are young,” he says.

    (Adding information to the discussion)

    • That’s journalism for you – take a bunch of reasonable comments from experts and lump them into one big correlation = causation error: “Legal highs linked to psychosis.”

      • I found this article concerning as well. Absolutely we need to look at the bad side effects and whether products are being properly tested before being sold, but saying a 2012 report looked at 29 people who presented to A&E – without knowing how many other people used the products with no bad side-effects – doesn’t really tell us anything about how dangerous these products are.

        To add more information to the discussion, I find this study interesting:
        http://psychcentral.com/news/2013/12/10/harvard-marijuana-doesnt-cause-schizophrenia/63148.html

        In grossly oversimplified layperson’s terms, it looks like both schizophrenia and drug use have a genetic/family component. So of course if you look at people who smoke cannabis as young adults, you find a lot more people with schizophrenia (and if cannabis has the effect of mitigating the symptoms of schizophrenia, that’s even less surprising.)

    • emergency mike 30.2

      Meanwhile, Man on legal high headbutts his way through wall.

      Legal high habit takes teen to rock bottom.

      A tried to find a cutely contrasting ‘Man on cannabis eats large bag potato chips and big block of chocolate, feels quite full’ article but came up empty.

  30. Lan 31

    Stop calling it “synthetic cannabis” – it is not -more likely a variant on methamphetamine ..as with ethanol and methanol there doesn’t need to be a large difference in chemical makeup to cause a large difference in effect – tho both are poisonous!

  31. The sale and use of psychoactive substances are very topical issues. How cannabis is related to this often comes into discussions.

    I asked Peter Dunne some questions on this.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

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

    Zero I think.

    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.

    These are not my views and I don’t endorse them. I have sought answers to contribute to this discussion.

    Like it or not Dunne’s responses reflect some degree of reality of the current situation in New Zealand.

    • emergency mike 32.1

      In any case, all the pharmacological and toxicologist and international advice I receive strongly suggests cannabis would fail the low risk test.

      BS. Did you ask him whether alcohol would fail ‘the low risk test’ whatever that is? Or is ‘the low risk test’ a lot like the ‘what Peter Dunne says test’?

      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.

      BS. Most are looking at what Uruguay and a number of US states have done or are about to do: legalize. Are we 2 to 3 years ahead of them in this debate? I think not.

      You asked Peter Dunne whether there were any plans to look at softening the cannabis laws. He said ‘no’. You asked him about why the less harmful natural stuff is illegal while synthetic crap is available. He said ‘nope’.

      Thanks so much for the contibution to the discussion Pete.

    • weka 32.2

      “Psychotic Substances Act”

      lol. Keep it up PG, the more we see what you really think the better.

      • the pigman 32.2.1

        He truly has mastered the art of freudian slips and (unintentionally?-)loaded-language.

  32. Next sequel 33

    Unless youve tried it youll never know what its like and you shouldnt even be giving input on subject based on little bobby having a puff and going skitzo because thats just telling me little bobby had mental issues to begin with(usually youre gossiping or judging type of people)are the ones that freak themselves out and,I challenge anyone to find a drunk thats more well behaved than a stoner because it aint going to happen and if the users of sc use cleareyes you couldnt even tell,I know because I do it all the time even with coppers at a random checkpoint-and no im not away with the faries that I cant function behind a car properly but like other substances available its the few who screw it up for the many.

  33. Lan 34

    Require all product constituents and “synthetic” chemical formula to be displayed on every packet. The Government Health website is not informative. “Legal Highs” are not complex substances and any competent organic chemist or toxicologist should be able to associate troublesome reactions to chemical makeup and type. Safer for user too if treatment possible before permanent kidney, cardiac, stroke/brain damage etc.

    Food products now have to have this in common format (% sugar, fats etc) on packages so quite feasible and safer to do this also for these “psychoactive” packets of stuff.

  34. Nathan 35

    This whole situation is a clear example of the desperate need for our drug policies to be based on science/fact rather than political perspectives and morale judgements.

    Obviously there is an issue with synthetics, but I can’t understand why we are so accepting of the damage that alcohol does to us all the time. I’m sure there are far more people struggling with alcohol dependency and related illnesses both physical and mental than there are from synthetics. We are so willing to overlook these issues and accept the active promotion of alcohol by our society in general. The alcohol industry gets a jail out of free card because they put “Please drink responsibly” somewhere at the bottom of the advert in small print.

    I’m not endorsing synthetics, far from it, but we need some consistency to our approach to psychoactive substances. No wonder kids don’t know what to believe! We tell them some drugs are terrible while others are fine.
    The outright prohibition of any substance has proved ineffective. Let’s come up with some more dynamic ways of tackling this issue.

  35. Billie Sweet 36

    Legalize Jah Erb’

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