Dunne’s drug legacy

via TVNZ

Auckland City Missioner Chris Farrelly has confirmed that the mission is seeing violent behaviour in clients who have never been violent before and speculated that synthetic cannabis was being “spiked” with something else.

That’s possible. Faced with seven deaths in the past month, some Auckland heath officials have been considering the possibility that fentanyl, the potent synthetic opioid responsible for thousands of overdose deaths in North America and now being manufactured by Mexican cartels, may have arrived on New Zealand streets.

That would be very alarming, but in line with the experience in Canada, where fentanyl has been detected in every recreational drug bar natural cannabis.

But it’s important to understand that “synthetic cannabis” is not, and never has been, just one drug.

The drugs briefly permitted for regulated sale under the Psychoactive Substances Act in 2013 were not the same as some of the (generally more benign) drugs that were sold in shops for years – and progressively banned – before the Act.

And whatever is in street “synnies” now is clearly something different to what was sold in 2013.

These chemicals have two things in common. The first is that they’re mixed with acetone and sprayed on vegetable material for smoking. The second is that they’re all cannabimimetics – that is, they act on the same CB1 and CB2 receptors in the brain as cannabis does.

The writer assumes there would not have been a similar progression of chemicals even if it had remained legal.

So this has been coming for a while – ever since the ban, in fact. We’ve gone from unregulated sale in dairies, to regulated sale under an Act that was imperfect but at least offered some control over the products, to the open slather of the street.

This isn’t going to be easy to fix. This is a class of drugs that isn’t really amenable to regulation – and yet, the harm the drugs cause is now far greater than anything that occurred when they were legal and regulated.

Legalising natural cannabis isn’t a quick fix either. Perhaps if 10 years ago natural cannabis had been legalised, the synthetic market would never have developed. Perhaps. But in California, where weed is as good as legal, synthetic cannabis products still take a toll – and they take it on the same sector as they do here: the homeless and itinerant.

Quite the legacy for Peter Dunne.  He should have had the courage not to fart around the edges and pushed proper marijuana law reform.

Instead, we have 7 or 8 people dead in the face of a cannabis death toll of zero.

The questions aren’t going to go away.  At some stage, some government will get marijuana law reform over the line.  But it requires the stalwarts to be flushed from parliament.  Including Dunne.



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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

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