Government regulates, councils panic.

I am starting to see a link between the Psychoactive Substances Act here in New Zealand and the moral panic created in our media about legal highs. For a while, I couldn’t work out why the panic was being stirred up when regulation was being passed already – what purpose would it serve to make the populace react like this?

Now the law has been passed, local councils have been given the power to decide whether, and how, legal highs will be sold in their areas. So we are getting situations like this, where councils are moving to ban the substances locally based on anecdata and hype about the so-called dangers of legal highs. Many of which have been given an initial interim tick by the Ministry of Health to be sold, but perhaps will not pass the more stringent safety testing planned for later this year.

So the government gets to look progressive internationally, meanwhile creating a moral panic locally and passing the banhammer to councils. It seems quite a few councils are looking at preventing the substances being sold by placing onerous restrictions on retailers through zoning, restrictions on opening hours and the like, in response to public petitions that have come about because of the moral panic around the issue – which was created in the media. *sigh*

Don’t get me wrong, I’m no fan of synthetic cannabis. I have tried it three times and on the third occasion I had an anxiety attack and threw out all the rest of the stuff I had because it just.felt.wrong. I know of another person who’s had a similar reaction. I know still another person who had found themselves becoming dependent on one of them – but that was the one that was later found to contain benzodiazepines, which are highly dependence-inducing. And the whole point of regulating sales and putting in place a testing regime is to ensure that benzo-containing synthetic pot can’t slip through in imports, and that if a substance causes anxiety attacks in people, it won’t be sold.

And I also fully recognise the much larger number of people I know who have used synthetic pot and had no problems, in fact have found it to be easier on them than cannabis. These people’s anecdata should count too, right? Oh wait..

Councils are starting to ban things before they’ve even been tested – on the basis of media hype and second and third hand anecdotal evidence by people who’ve been trained to see only the bad side of drug use. This seems .. actually it seems like exactly what the government intended when it gave them this power while simultaneously stirring up a moral panic in the media, eh?

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