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Drug One4-B Banned: What Next - Alcohol?

Christchurch’s Mild Greens are curious as to whether the Ministry of Health, Police and Customs will initiate a precautionary ban on the sale of liquor, in line with new drug-harm prevention measures introduced under the Misuse of Drugs Amendment Act 2000.

Blair Anderson and Kevin O’Connell say the Ministry of Health / Police / Media reaction against the “dietary supplement” known as “14B” is sanctimonious and counter-productive.

The publicity surrounding illicit drug busts and emerging threats such as the new popularity of amphetamines, demonstrates that the nation’s drug laws operate according to gross double standards, highlighted as an impediment to effective anti-drug education in 1998 by Parliament's Health Select Committee, say the reformers.

“How many people drink themselves unconscious every weekend using the legal and heavily promoted alcohol - or cause untold heartache through alcohol excess?” And how many hundred thousand ignore criminal sanctions and casually consume cannabis, ecstasy, and/or other preparations - without necessarily over-doing it and hurting themselves or anyone else?

Distributors of 14B say the substance is manufactured to food quality specifications, is 99% pure, and a relatively safe alternative to club danger-drug Fantasy, if used in accordance with safety instructions. Interestingly they make no pretence that the substance is euphoric.

500,000 tonnes/pa of One, 4 Butanediol, also known as lactone, is understood to be manufactured for industrial purposes - “and thanks to the media sensationalism, every school kid in the country will be looking up the recipe on the internet”, say the Mild Greens.

“This is no way to conduct an effective drug education campaign - the mass media (and Police Drugs Intelligence) need to be disenfranchised from their pernicious interest in inadvertent drug promotion, and black market turnover”.

Irrespectively, the clamp-down on 14B presumes that a ban on legal distribution would reduce harms associated with its use - but it has become widely apparent that in the attempt to ban marijuana, a high level of use, and most cannabis-related harms are actually created by the prohibition.

And in the general attempt to prohibit popular drugs, problems often occur because of an absence of effective drug safety information and quality control, while fear of the law impedes medical access when an emergency arises.

There is a compelling case for “controlled availability” of certain substances, say the Mild Greens. “But our drug laws continue to send the ridiculous message that alcohol is the only good and safe intoxicant.”

The M.P.s of the Health select committee which inquired into the Mental Health Effects of Cannabis in 1998, unanimously decided that the “double standards surrounding cannabis are an impediment to effective anti-drug education” (p 39).

The Mild Greens say it is a pity that administrators, police and media appear to suffer chronic memory loss and acute cognitive impairment over the 1998 Cannabis Inquiry's key finding:

“Intervention is required against the hypocrisy, injustice, prejudice, and policy fraud. It's time to rationalise, and legalise - and bring the country's drug ‘outlaws’ in from the cold, and allow genuine harm minimisation, informed choice and cognitive liberty”, say the reformers.

At last week's youth cannabis forum at Parliament, where Youth Affairs Minister Laila Harre demonstrated profound integrity in support of legal regulation, the Drug Foundation's Sally Jackman acknowledged the need to audit the quality of information publicly available on drugs.

It is hoped that the appointment of a new Expert Advisory Committee on Drugs, will facilitate a moderate and evidence-based transition beyond prohibition, with an emphasis on drug education free of corrupt double standards.

For those interested, public submissions to the Health Select Committee Inquiry into Cannabis Health Strategies close next Wednesday, 7th of February.

Blair Anderson, Kevin O’Connell (03) 389 4065

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