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Criminalising synthetic cannabis will have only bad results

  1. jon-q
    The Federal Government has announced legislation to ban the sale and possession of synthetic cannabinoid substances found in a number of popular herbal smoking mixes. While not being real cannabis, these analogue or derivative compounds are sprayed on to herbal smoking mixes and mimic some of the effects of real cannabis although most reports suggest they are much milder in effect.

    In conjunction with relaxing herbs like valerian, vervain and passion flower, these mixes have been popular and on sale in tobacconists and adult shops around the nation for nearly two years now. One of the reasons for the Government taking aim at the products has been because of their increasing use. Anecdotal evidence suggests that around a million people have been using them. Retail sources suggest that the day before the bans were announced, there was at least $4 million worth of stock on legal sale in Australia. The Government has relied heavily on the opinion of the Australian Medical Association to back its move. The AMA has done no research of its own and simply claims that the products can cause heart palpitations and panic attacks. So can strong coffee.

    The New Zealand Government recently regulated the sale of these smoking compounds after its Expert Advisory Committee on Drugs reported that they were less harmful than alcohol and should not be banned. The conservative Health Minister did put a number of restrictions and conditions on their sale, including limiting sale from age-restricted premises and strong packaging controls but he emphatically refused to follow the Australian action of banning them.

    Anecdotal evidence in Australia suggests that the legal sale of these substances has led to a reduction in heroin overdoses, a fall in the price of black market drugs and a reduction in the total amount of illegal drugs. Adult shop owners around the country are reporting older and infirm people buying the compounds for pain relief, relief from the shaking of Parkinsons disease, lessening the effects of fibromyalgia and relief from insomnia.

    A decade ago, Portugal became the first country in the world to legalise personal possession of all drugs. The results to date have been conclusive. Drug use in the critical 16 to 18-year-old age group has fallen by 25per cent. Drug use by the over-18s has stayed the same. The total number of drug-related deaths (including overdoses) has declined by 27per cent, HIV and hepatitis infections have declined by almost 50per cent. Crime in general has fallen. The saving to law enforcement and the health budget has been substantial.

    If the social evidence from Portugal and the health research from New Zealand isn't enough, the Global Commission on Drug Policy released its long-awaited report last month. It concluded that, ''The global war on drugs has failed with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world.'' The commission's board is no lightweight thinktank and includes former UN general-secretary, Kofi Annan, businessman Richard Branson and half a dozen past national presidents.

    Synthetic cannabis is probably not entirely harmless. Aspirin and ibuprofen can severely damage your kidneys and stomach and new research shows that even small amounts of alcohol may be a lot more harmful than we think. Sleeping pills, diet pills, anti-cancer drugs and acne creams can all be harmful even when taken or used as prescribed. Most people will use a drug at some stage in their lives and what we need to consider with all drugs is the best way to stop people being harmed by them. Banning them does not make them less harmful and in most situations prohibition makes them more harmful because it stops governments from controlling them.

    Once government takes a drug that has been legal and makes it illegal, it does nothing to address the desire and the demand for it. It simply hands it over to organised crime and throws away any form of regulation that it could have had.

    The mechanics of drug prohibition are not rocket science. There is no other way to view what the Federal Government has just done. It has simply handed organised crime gangs a multimillion-dollar business just so it can continue its farcical pose about being ''tough on drugs''.

    A major problem for drug law reform is that there is no provision on the Poisons Schedule to list ''recreational drugs''. In listing synthetic cannabis smoking compounds as Class 9 poisons, (almost more dangerous than weapons of mass destruction), the scheduling committee stated that the basis for their decision was that synthetic cannabis compounds ''are used for the purpose of obtaining a psychoactive effect; may be dependence producing; have no legitimate therapeutic uses and have documented harmful effects which may be significant in some individuals''.

    Well, alcohol and tobacco fit that description to a tee but they are not listed as Schedule 9 poisons. Why? We need to own up to the fact that human beings have always self-medicated and stop living in denial of this fact. We also have to get rid of this attitude of ''my drug is morally superior to yours''. All drugs have their down side and all have their up side as well.

    Consider this. Over the past few decades the use of all recreational drugs has been on the increase except one tobacco. Cigarette smoking is the only recreational drug use that is in decline and that is because governments have control over the product including its packaging, point of sale, price and, most importantly, public health and education campaigns.

    Surely this would be the best way to handle synthetic cannabis as well.

    Canberra Times 13th July 2011


  1. Teknicality
    Yes but that would take admitting, on the government's part, that they want you to go to rehab to drop the criminal charges on (whatever). Put you on probation to get you to pay for a drug test that you would subvert by paying for a taxed legal product regulated by the fda. Or in other words, a big scam, but hey it's not like we, as americans, don't see a whole fuck load of those everyday. That'd be a lot better than the alternative.

    Our government making themselves look like fools for letting their kids smoke this gunk that might be more harmful than the most recent synthetic cannabinoid they've criminalized.

    Inaction would've been less harmful than delayed action. Now it just seems as if our government is covering it's ass because word got out to the savy parents that their kids were getting high again. Oh noes!
  2. Docta
    This is an editorial opinion peace not a news article and it misrepresents the situation.

    Being so far removed from Australia it would be easy to misunderstand the motivation behind the prohibition on synthetic cannabinoids.

    The legislative act is not in response to recreational use it is to combat substance abuse in the work place as regard to Australia’s stringent occupational health and safety regulations. In Australia an employer has a duty of care to provide a safe work environment that is legally enforced.

    The wide spread abuse of OTC products containing mainly JWH-018 and HU-210 are rife in the mining industry; The fact that these drugs are hard to pick up in screening tests have made for a situation that could not be tolerated, the intoxicated employees are a danger to them selves and others.

    The company that I work for is one that along with others including the labour unions lobbied to have the importation and sale made illegal, It is the representation of the lobby group that is driving federal intervention.
    This is not about the use of illegal drugs in the work place, unlike alcohol the other drug of choice that employees uses to unwind at the end of shift, we don’t have a reliable, easy to use on the spot intoxication test for cannabinoids. If someone uses alcohol on shift and are suspected of being intoxicated they can be breathalysed to confirm. The best way to stop employees bringing bags of Kronic to the mining camp/town is legal prohibition. Illegal substances can be picked up in urine test.

    If you sore how bad some of these idiots are out in the pit you would back this as well; They are not just hurting themselves but others.
    I can give a hundred examples of personal injury, damage to plant and lost production that are the direct result of cannabinoid intoxication.

    Most laws are made to combat the actions of a few, unfortunately it’s the majority that has to live with the consequences.
  3. Terrapinzflyer
    @ The Docta: to be clear- jon-q was simply posting a news article- neither the title, nor necessarily the views expressed, are his.

    And I do think you raise a valid point- it is irresponsibility on the part of the users, and to an extent the sellers, that often bring about the situations leading to bans. But having worked in similar situations- alcohol, whether actual intoxication or the after effects (hangover) proved the largest problem. The problem is rarely, if ever, the substance- but the actions of some people using them.... Banning a substance will not resolve the underlying issue- people.
  4. Docta
    I'll edit to make it less directional.

    Banning it will address the problem in the work place.
    Out at the mine we have a simple test for alcohol impairment.
    Prohibit a drug and we can text for it in urine.
    There is no other effective way to stop it's use, I mean something that can be put into place over night.
  5. parth689greier
    Agreed synthetic "weed alternatives" with unknown potential effects seem so much more dangerous than weed itself which has decades of user experience and knowledge. The only reason to use this is if you're desperate and can't get the real stuff in which case its still a bad idea.
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