Pubdate: Sun, 04 May 2014
Source: New Zealand Herald (New Zealand)
Copyright: 2014 New Zealand Herald
Author: Rodney Hide


It's possible our politicians haven't a clue what they're doing with
drug policy. It's easy to see why. Drugs are outside their experience,
highly emotive and dangerous politics. Politicians as far apart as
Nandor Tanczos and Don Brash have come unstuck attempting a rational

These two politicians constitute a grim warning across the political

The result is drug law that is incoherent and now in

Within a year we have gone from prohibition to laissez faire to a
regulated market and now back to prohibition.

Nine months ago all political parties bar Act were hailing the new
regulated market as world-leading and a new era in harm

All those same parties have now run a mile. The long and considered
process that included a weighty Law Commission report has been
abandoned in favour of legislation to be passed under urgency as soon
as Parliament resumes.

Previously "legal highs" such as BZP were banned under the Misuse of
Drugs Act. That was the prohibition phase. But the problem was Walter
White types racing ahead of the law with ever-new synthetic drugs. Out
on that chemical frontier we had a wild, wild west. Politicians
passing laws couldn't keep up.

Last year's Psychoactive Substances Act was designed to end all that.
It would make drug-taking safer, regulated to adults and taxed and
controlled by government. We were told over and over that prohibition
doesn't work. Better to have "legal highs" out in the open and
properly regulated.

Act's John Banks was the only dissenter but his opposition was because
of the Government's lack of assurance that animals wouldn't be used
for testing.

Part of the problem with the new regime is Prime Minister John Key's
reluctance to authorise testing on puppies and bunnies - but he's
thinking that rats and mice might be okay. Mickey can get high but not
Peter or Pluto.

The approach we oh-so-briefly had was reasoned and rational and
probably greatly reduced the damage people caused themselves through
drugs. But nonetheless it proved flawed. Drugged youngsters outside
"legal high" stores - and their desperate mums and dads - make great
TV. And it's election year. The new regime never stood a chance.

We don't want drug-taking out in the open.

Better to drive drugs underground. It's better for politicians too:
forcing drug-users underground means politicians are no longer held
responsible for their plight and, better yet, hides them from Campbell

Drugs won't go away. And in all of the debate two words were always
missed out: personal responsibility.

I doubt it's ever wise to look to politicians for guidance on what we
should and shouldn't be putting inside our bodies.
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