Ross Bell: Police are not telling us enough about this killer drug

By August 8, 2017 Recent News

NZ Herald 8 August 2017
Family First Comment: “Our new model drug law, Whakawatea te Huarahi, proposes removing criminal penalties for personal possession and use of ALL drugs, in line with the Law Commission’s 2011 recommendations.”
Yep – ALL drugs. Cocaine, P, all of them.

It’s been a tragic month. Nine people have lost their lives in Auckland after using what is commonly known as “synthetic cannabis” (better described as dried leaves sprayed with any of a range of untested psychoactive substances).

On top of that tragedy, there have been as many as two dozen people per day presenting to emergency services, and no one yet knows what long term health and mental health effects those people will suffer.

We owe it to those who have died to use this as a wake-up call. That means taking a good hard look at both the handling of this crisis and the wider legal context that led to the situation we’re now in.

Firstly, let’s look at Prime Minister Bill English’s response. His take was that this is a police matter and a matter of personal responsibility, along the lines of “don’t take drugs folks, they’re not only dangerous, they’re also illegal”.

This wholly inadequate response is at odds with New Zealand’s national drug policy passed by his own cabinet, which places drug use issues squarely in their public health and social context.

It recognises that people take drugs for a range of reasons, including to escape from the effects of unbearable physical or emotional pain, or because they have become dependent. It should be pretty obvious by now that we can’t stop people taking drugs simply by telling them not to.

Instead we need to provide people with the information they need to make informed decisions. People need to know which drugs are causing this specific crisis, where they have been purchased, in what time frame, and what kind of packaging are they most likely to be in.

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