July 16th, 2013


Our government - progressing backwards like a boss

So the NZ Government has passed the Psychoactive Substances Act, which will purportedly regulate the market for legal highs. I am giving the whole thing a giant side-eye, as some of you are already aware.

The question is, will the Act provide a framework for sensible regulation of the market for recreational substances, or is it a way of effectively banning everything that exists now and might exist in the future? I hope for the former but under our current government, cynically expect the latter. Our government doesn't have a very good track record for progressive attitude to drugs, and I really wish the world would stop applauding this legislation and assess it critically in the context of what else is happening in the field in New Zealand.

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The man says it all, really. The thing that gets up my nose about this is that the state claims to take a harm reduction stance when legislating drugs, yet with this Act they have introduced a harm that previously did not exist - that of making possession a punishable offence. Think about it - the main aim of this legislation is to regulate the market, and to make sure that people are not selling potentially dangerous things. Almost the entire Act is about licences for supplying substances - how to get one, what's required to prove a substance poses low risk of harm, and what the sanctions are for people found to be distributing products without a licence. And smack in the middle of this stuff about licencing, sale and the market, they've decided it's a good idea to punish folks for possession.

It beats me why, if you want to stop people selling something, you'd punish the buyer, eh? I know the thinking - the threat of punishment will deter people from buying it, right? Except it doesn't, which is why so many people are currently incarcerated for possession offences. All it really does is add another risk of potential harm. Now, if you use these things, you're not only risking the harms the government claims it's trying to prevent, but you also risk the harms the government has slapped on for the sake of looking like they're doing something about the 'problem'. Sure, target sanctions at suppliers if you want to regulate supply. But punishing users? Plz explain to me exactly what this will achieve.

Harm reduction my arse.