Wednesday, December 20, 2006

A hypocritical approach

So, the government wants to ban party pills on the basis of their health effects. But while the government's expert committee found that a number of studies had showed "potential for serious harm in some individuals" due to side effects, they also noted that

there have been no recorded deaths attributed solely to the use of BZP

Meanwhile, according to a study commissioned by ALAC, alcohol directly kills over a thousand people a year [PDF]. By any reasonable standard, we're banning the wrong drug.

Before anyone gets the wrong end of the stick, I do not want to see alcohol prohibition. Rather, I want to see some consistency. If we're happy for people to drink booze at such an enormous cost in human life, then we should be happy for them to take party pills at a far lower cost. And if we're concerned about medical costs or use by children, we should adopt the same approach of excise taxes and age limits. If we think adults are free to fuck up their own lives with the odd drink, then we have to also grant them the right to fuck up their own lives with the odd party pill. Anything else is pure hypocrisy.

Unfortunately, "pure hypocrisy" describes the government's approach to a T - a fact which is unlikely to go unnoticed by party pill poppers. And rather than engendering respect for the law, it is likely to result in their concluding that it, and Anderton, is an ass.


This comment has been removed by a blog administrator. Posted by Sanctuary : 12/21/2006 07:38:00 AM

Jim Anderton is a well known hard liner and has always wanted to ban these pills. The only reason he is taking so long about it and being so thorough is he wants to make absolutely sure there can be no claim of bias made against him.

Interestingly, the EACD head on the radio this afternoon quoted the success of the ban on GHB as the model for banning BZP. His view was given the nature of the side effects once banned users would be unlikely to seek out blackmarket sources of BZP. I tend to agree with that limited analysis as far as it goes.

However GHB was widely disliked within the general user community; It is a anaesthetic and CNS suppressant and as such has nothing in common with a stimulant like BZP; And a widely available "harder" illegal alternative was not around.

And thats the problem - the EACD has made its recommendation on an extremely narrow basis. Its quite obvious that if it was asked to look at liquor it would have to ban it based on he criteria its used for party pills. To me, its simply a matter of hypocrisy - 50 plus year old white guys don't understand them, therefore they will be banned.

Overall use of stimulants will drop as supply becomes the primary determinant of use. But large numbers of BZP users will simply switch to other widely available illegal amphetamine based substitutes.

I personally don't like them - the comedown is horrendous - but as a person who has seen the ravages of alcohol addiction on several people close to me, the harm of these pills is nothing compared to liquor. People have the right to choose their poison.

Posted by Sanctuary : 12/21/2006 07:41:00 AM

Sadly Dunne and Peters also jump on this bandwagon, both being conservative and using the fear of their voters, and the Nats are supporting it - the Maori Party are probably not likely to be open on this either. ACT? We'll wait and see.

It is sad that rational debate about this issue is so uncommon.

Posted by Libertyscott : 12/21/2006 08:28:00 AM

It'll just mean more people do speed, which'll be good for the gang-based economy. I can't see that anyone would bother to clandestinely make BZP - it's no easier than making methamphetamine. There will no doubt be a lot of enterprising people who stock up on party pills before the ban hits, though.

A cynic would suggest that the multi-million dollar amphetamine industry might have an interest in funding politicians who support a ban on safer substitutes.

At the end of the day, BZP might well be a bit bad for you, just like alcohol. MDMA is quite possibly a safer drug - huge numbers of Brits and others take it regularly with very few actual problems. (I'd suspect that if either BZP or MDMA were treatments for a minor medical condition then they would have no problem getting licensed. V*agra is licensed despite having numerous side effects and contra-indications).

Posted by Rich : 12/21/2006 10:43:00 AM


_BUT_ (and it's a big but), Viagra is a procribed drug, not one you buy OTC. I'm not personally up for banning party pills, but comparing them to drugs taken under medical advice is a big mistake IMO. All drugs have side effects, it's a question of risk management - look at cancer chemo, it's almost lethal... point is it's 'almost' and you kill the cancer first. The risks are worth the gain.

Posted by Muerk : 12/21/2006 04:04:00 PM

There is no hypocricy and you should know that. Are you deliberatly misrepresenting Jim?

Jim Anderton opposes alcohol use also, the only difference is that people, including yourself, would probably fight harder to stop alcohol restrictions than BZP restrctions.

calling that hypocritical is like calling someone hypocritical for not using all your effort to demand a 100% capital gains tax on houses.

as he said on tv when asked why ban BZP and not alcohol "don't tempt me"

Do you really know anyone who turned down speed in favour of a party pill? was there a massive drop in drug users when party pils came out as people moved from hard drugs to the new pills?

> the multi-million dollar amphetamine industry might have an interest in funding politicians who support a ban on safer substitutes.

usually that doesnt get you much bang for your buck - but I guess drug lords donate money just like everyone else.

Posted by Genius : 12/21/2006 07:14:00 PM

I agree it's not hypocrisy on Anderton's part - he'll ban any drugs he thinks he can get away with, so there's no surprise here.

His mates in the govt, though - that's another story. Banning drugs you don't personally use is an easy way to be seen to be "doing something" about drugs without inconveniencing yourself. Any of them that drinks alcohol in any form or quantity and wants to ban party pills is a hypocritical scumbag.

Posted by Psycho Milt : 12/22/2006 07:37:00 AM

Genius: Yes, I do know people who take party pills instead of smoking crack.

It's a whole lot easier to pick a few party pills up from the bottle store than to track down your dealer, etc, etc.

Muerk: Being prescription-only doesn't eliminate all problems - it relys on the doctor/pharmacist to spot the contra-indications. If you want a harmful drug that's OTC, look no further than paracetamol. It kills hundreds worldwide each year from liver failure in overdose, but is available in supermarkets (I think, certainly pharmacists). The distinction between paracetamol and MDMA is simply "drugs for a minor medical condition=ok, drugs for fun=bad".

Why shouldn't adults make their own informed choices?

Posted by Rich : 12/22/2006 09:56:00 AM

I have plenty of respect for Jim for Kiwibank, but on the subject of drugs he's just a plain fundamentalist munter.
For a superb critique of why the War on Drugs in general is profoundly flawed, see:

Posted by Anonymous : 12/22/2006 06:00:00 PM

and the precis version for those that can't be bothered with the linked articles:
- large parts of humankind continue to want to get whacked, and you can't legislate it away
- ban legitimate channels of supply (that can be regulated, taxed and controlled), and you hand criminality a large financial printing press which they will use effectively, in the process greatly increasing their power
- Prohibition was the great experiment, and having conducted an empirical comparison of the societal problems of regulated supply vs the societal problems of Prohibition, the US public chose regulated supply as less problematic
- unfortunately, the War on Drugs has been going on so long, that the memory of the real societal problems of the regulated supply era (ie early 20C) have been lost
- the anti-drugs crusade was in large part an individual crusade of Harry Anslinger (may he rot)
- very few populations (eg the Netherlands) have since had the moral courage to break ranks with the puritanical US and question whether there could be a better way of spending the vast sums of money we waste "dealing with the drug problem"

Posted by Anonymous : 12/22/2006 06:49:00 PM

hmm ok maybe some do, but it would seem that drug use is increasing (looking at the stats that I can find) at the same time that party pill usage increased. So one would at first glance think the opposite is true.

The drug that is decreasing is tobacc/nicotine. So if you were to have an argument along those lines one would think it would be a pro tobacco one.

Besides, when pseduoephedrine was banned companies replaced it with BZP (and massively increased the output!). Their business is more around marketing than the ability to supply a certain chemical. So presumably they will make some other drug that is even less of a problem to replace it.

Posted by Genius : 12/23/2006 01:01:00 PM

"If you want a harmful drug that's OTC, look no further than paracetamol"

Yup, very true. 20 500mg tabs is a fatal dose, only it takes 3 weeks of horribleness to kill you. Asprin is dangerous too. Both are available in supermarkets, however they are in blister packs, previously they were sold loose in bottles, but blister packaging reduces the number of deaths.

Posted by Muerk : 12/23/2006 05:28:00 PM

I noticed that Portugal has decriminalised - not legalised - everything use. You still ge tin a kind of trouble if they catch you, and it gets confiscated... Interesting to see what happens.

Posted by Lyndon : 3/21/2007 10:39:00 AM