September 12th, 2014


Gosh, another topical rant

Seems to be the week for it.

I have an alert set up in my inbox for any mention of legal highs in the local news aggregator, Stuff. I'm doing this because I intend to make the research project for my Honours degree an exploration of the legal high story in NZ, as told through the media, and show *insert something academic and useful to the world here* about the relationship between media, culture, and legislation. I'm really hoping that what I end up showing isn't how propaganda feeds on itself to block progressive laws from being effective, but it's becoming more and more likely that that's what will happen.

So anyway, I got a couple of alerts last night.

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It is extremely unfortunate that the majority of decent people in New Zealand have been indoctrinated to assume that any drug use (that isn't alcohol, tobacco, coffee or medication) is automatically bad, and that the unintended consequences of the way this law has been implemented have reinforced this view. I think it would be a shame if the NIMBY crowd were able to stir up enough anti-drug sentiment to cause the government to backtrack on what is currently one of the more progressive drug laws in the world. But that's what they are trying to do. I sympathise with them, I really do. It's not their fault that they've been fed drama through the media that hasn't been balanced with fact and evidence. Most people aren't educated on these topics (I plan to change that btw). They believe they are acting in the best interests of their communities, and on face value, they are. They don't want legal highs (except.. yadda yadda) and they don't care about the complex and arse-backwards-seeming array of evidence that suggests that legalising drugs will reduce the harms associated with them. Most people think banning works.

And everyone's ignoring the elephant in the room - that there are a bunch of things that have already been made illegal, that would very likely pass those 'low risk of harm' tests. LSD is one of them. And that terrifies people. It would be a shame if that fear was allowed to continue to prevail over evidence in this. Legal high policy is the battleground where evidence vs propaganda will be fought in this country, and right now, evidence is losing as a vicous cycle of fear feeding drama which feeds the media which feeds more fear, seems to be framing the debate.

What I'm thinking about this: How do we reframe it into something more constructive?

* I think marginalising drug use in this way also prevents proper education on how to stay safe and actually makes it more dangerous. Never mind that in our pill-popping, coffee-swilling culture where a bottle of alcohol is a standard gift for speakers at conferences, I think drug use is already well normalised. But that's another rant.