John Roughan – ‘Health approach’ for cannabis reform did not work the last time.

NZ Herald 16 April 2016
Family First Comment: Superb commentary from the NZ Herald today – “I’d be very surprised if this Government ever contemplates a general decriminalisation because it tried that, at Dunne’s suggestion, a few years ago. Remember? They used the “health approach” for the regulation of new substances called synthetic cannabis and it proved to be a social and political disaster.”
Exactly. Drug use is both a criminal and a health issue. There is a false dichotomy that criminal sanctions haven’t worked so we should ditch them all together and we should focus only on education and health initiatives. We should maintain both..

Dr Lance O’Sullivan, the estimable young Northland GP named New Zealander of the Year not so long ago, put his name to an article in the Herald this week that called for the decriminalising of cannabis. At least, I think it was referring to cannabis when the piece co-authored by the New Zealand Drug Foundation chairman, Tuari Potiki, urged the “drug problem” be treated with health measures rather than criminal law. Professor Doug Sellman, director of Otago University’s National Addiction Centre, left no doubt about it, writing on the same page, “The days of cannabis prohibition in New Zealand appear to be coming to an end.”

…Still, I’d be very surprised if this Government ever contemplates a general decriminalisation because it tried that, at Dunne’s suggestion, a few years ago. Remember? They used the “health approach” for the regulation of new substances called synthetic cannabis and it proved to be a social and political disaster.

I am sure public health campaigners such as Professor Sellman remember the parade of misery and disgust on Campbell Live at the time, the impassioned appeals from mothers of those openly buying the stuff, the wretched characters coming and going from the few approved suppliers in unfortunate shopping centres in less salubrious suburbs. I’m sure they do remember but they haven’t worked out why the policy went wrong. Poor neighbourhoods are a long way from university seminars. Economic regulators realised a long time ago that while controlling the quality of products on a market can be a good thing to do, controlling the quantity of supplies or suppliers is almost never wise. Health regulators haven’t much time for economics and don’t much like markets. So when they were given the task of bringing some law and order to the wild new business of party drugs and chemical highs, they did not just look for a way to test them for safety, they invited councils to control the number of licensed outlets. The result was a blight on the chosen places and a political outcry that caused the Government to call the thing off. I doubt that any party in Parliament wants to go back there.

….It didn’t work for alcohol but public health campaigns make a mistake, I think, when they put alcohol in the same category as drugs taken purely for a hit in the head. Drinking is pleasant in itself. When the minds starts to spin from alcohol, the pleasure is over. Drugs that do nothing for you up to that point have no redeeming social benefit to my mind.
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