The Dim-Post

October 12, 2009

War on some drugs

Filed under: crime,Politics — danylmc @ 7:12 am

thegreekKey was on Q & A yesterday talking about his anti-P initiative. It seems like the big plan is for customs to implement some new SECRET technology or process to prevent importation and distribution of the drug:

JOHN KEY That’s right, so 40 dedicated Customs Officers with new intelligence devices, new techniques of looking at things, obviously I can’t spell those out for obvious reasons, but in the two week trial they took 13 million dollars worth of P of street value off the street, now 13 million dollars no longer there, the price went up.  It speaks for itself if we do that 52 weeks of the year.

My guess is that the ban on over-the-counter sales is a preventative measure so that when the importation of precursors dries up it’s not possible to simply drive around the country from chemist to chemist stocking up on pseudoephedrine containing cold tablets. You could, I suppose, make an appointment with a couple of dozen new doctors a week and get separate prescriptions from all of them, but most of the doctors in the country are so overworked they won’t actually see any new patients.

PAUL Very quickly, how do we know in a year whether this is working?

JOHN KEY Well actually in one sense, the price of P will be much more expensive, because it’ll be taking supply off the market.

PAUL Which might drive up the intensity of the crime?

JOHN KEY Well what it will do though is it’s supply and demand, I mean ultimately that’s been the problem with P, I mean one of the reasons we didn’t have as big an addiction around cocaine and heroin was it was more expensive, harder to get, and couldn’t manufacture it.

I guess this might work, but I suspect the reason we have such a terrible problem with P is that New Zealander’s who are prone to drug abuse aren’t able to obtain cheap cocaine and heroin, or any of the other drugs that other western countries are flooded with.

My other concern is that the war on (some) drugs is also always the war on civil liberties:

JOHN KEY I mean firstly you’ve gotta change the law, so the Proceeds of Crime Bill that was passed through parliament recently actually changes the burden of proof, and quite clearly says unless you can prove that that money was legally gained, we’ll assume it was illegally gained.  Secondly we’re giving the Police much greater surveillance powers, much greater ability to listen in, we’re changing quite a number of Acts of Parliament to do that.  Now in one sense that’s quite heavy handed, we’re actually giving the Police a tool box which will allow them to go after not just the dealer or the cook, but actually the people at the head of the organised crime rings.

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39 Comments »

  1. “I guess this might work, but I suspect the reason we have such a terrible problem with P is that New Zealander’s who are prone to drug abuse aren’t able to obtain cheap cocaine and heroin, or any of the other drugs that other western countries are flooded with.”

    perhaps, but the US still has a massive meth/p problem and suppllies of coke and heroin aren’t exactly scarce there

    Comment by Chris — October 12, 2009 @ 8:10 am

  2. Nice work putting the pictoral reference to “The Wire”. If you ever want to be convinced of the futility and waste of resources that know as “the war on drugs” then sit down with all 5 sesons of The Wire. You’ll also end up swearing like a sailor.

    Comment by philonz — October 12, 2009 @ 8:34 am

  3. ^and with the most intimate knowledge of black street slang!

    Comment by chris — October 12, 2009 @ 9:04 am

  4. Key’s christian name really should be Richard!

    Comment by Chris R — October 12, 2009 @ 9:34 am

  5. @ philonz: I was wondering about the image reference – cheers.

    I thought P.(daddy) Holmes was unsurprisingly submissive in the interview.
    There are an estimated 55,000 Kiwis addicted to P (if I remember right), and Key proposes 2,000 beds to treat their addiction. If his supply-side measure is successful, that will make 53,000 untreated. There’s a maximum utility problem there. More expensive means more crime.

    Comment by Adhominem — October 12, 2009 @ 9:58 am

  6. i was about to start venting my outrage at this initiative, but checked, and discovered that my preferred cold and flu medicine uses phenlyephrine.

    i’ll admit to feeling robbed the opportunity to rant.

    Comment by Che Tibby — October 12, 2009 @ 11:06 am

  7. I was trying to figure out why reading Key verbatim like that is so annoying. He uses the phrase “I mean” 3 times, and twice in one sentence. He uses “Actually” 4 times, again at one point, twice in one sentence.

    I know that’s pedantic, and suspect when you hear it it’s not so bad, but he hardly sounds like a great statesman.

    Do they have a toastmasters club in Parliament? The guy needs serious coaching.

    Comment by Paul — October 12, 2009 @ 11:15 am

  8. In general I’m for harm reduction which would include decriminalisation for most drugs. The one major exception I’d make is for P. P has no redeemable features and causes some very nasty crime as well as brain rot that is quicker and more extensive than alcohol.

    We are currently breeding a a cohort of zombie teenagers that will cause hovac as they grow older and move through the mental health and prison systems.

    Maybe flooding the market with heroin would shift people away from P, maybe not. But since that is very unlikely to happen Keys measures get my support.

    Comment by Neil — October 12, 2009 @ 12:00 pm

  9. i was about to start venting my outrage at this initiative, but checked, and discovered that my preferred cold and flu medicine uses phenlyephrine.

    Are you sure? Lots of them moved to “New Formula” or “PE” once they realised no one wanted to steal a placebo.

    Comment by pete — October 12, 2009 @ 12:38 pm

  10. All of this was entirely predictable. We said in the late 90s and early 00s that the continued criminalisation of marijuana would lead to an explosion in other drugs, as marijuana retailers tried to up-sell their consumers to products with higher margins.

    Nobody listens until it’s too bloody late. I blame Jim Anderton and his idiot enablers.

    Comment by George Darroch — October 12, 2009 @ 12:40 pm

  11. @ philonz:

    That would be “The Greek”, the shadowy lynchpin of a large scale heroin and human trafficking operation. He makes his debut in series two.

    I’m just another The Wire bore I guess.

    Comment by LeonT — October 12, 2009 @ 12:43 pm

  12. Phenylephrine does very little for my symptoms.

    Interestingly enough, around the turn of the century there were a lot of people (in certain circles) using ephedrine as a recreational substance. Once it became illegal, they either stopped, or went up to amphetamines.

    Comment by George Darroch — October 12, 2009 @ 12:45 pm

  13. “Nobody listens until it’s too bloody late. I blame Jim Anderton and his idiot enablers.”

    Not that its an excuse for poor policy, but Jim Anderton does have a reason for his hysterical anti-drug crusade: his daughter had serious drug issues and died of an overdose. As I say, doesn’t mean his policy is any good, but I only found that out recently and it has made me be a little more charitable towards him.

    Comment by Eddie Clark — October 12, 2009 @ 1:39 pm

  14. My only consolation is that Anderton will be out of Parliament very soon. I wish I could say the same for Phil Goff.

    Comment by George Darroch — October 12, 2009 @ 1:46 pm

  15. “My only consolation is that Anderton will be out of Parliament very soon. I wish I could say the same for Phil Goff.”

    And mine is that Key, English and Hide will be “gone by lunchtime”!

    Comment by Chris R — October 12, 2009 @ 2:11 pm

  16. “Well what it will do though is it’s supply and demand”
    Ah yes the P-head: an ideal model of the rational neo-classical consumer.

    Comment by garethw — October 12, 2009 @ 2:39 pm

  17. @Eddie: Actually his daughter committed suicide. (http://www.colinjames.co.nz/herald/Herald_2002/Heraldxtra_Anderton_02Apr04.htm) Presumably there were drugs involved but I doubt she was on nitrous oxide, party pills, P and everything else he’s been against since then. While I have sympathy for him, I suspect that if she’d been a bogan he’d now be campaigning for heavy metal to be banned.

    @Adhominen: 55,000 P addicts seems like an extremely high number: about 1.3% of the total population. I suspect the figure is for people who’ve tried it in the last year or something similar. Of course, in war-on-drugs world there’s no distinction between trying something a few times and being a slavering addict…

    Comment by Helen — October 12, 2009 @ 3:03 pm

  18. “Well what it will do though is it’s supply and demand”
    Ah yes the P-head: an ideal model of the rational neo-classical consumer.

    You’d be foolish to suggest that price does not effect demand.

    A major reason NZ has had little heroin and cocaine is because Auckland was (according to a number of accounts) a major through-port for shipped drugs, and it made little sense to compromise transport with relatively small sales from those same lots. I don’t know if NZ is still a major through-route, however.

    Comment by George Darroch — October 12, 2009 @ 3:30 pm

  19. “You’d be foolish to suggest that price does not effect demand”
    And I would suggest you’d be foolish to think the price of P is the key, number one issue here.

    Comment by garethw — October 12, 2009 @ 6:40 pm

  20. Not having a major problem with imported drugs like heroin or cocaine is one of the by-products of being an island with limited points of entry and in a very real way a tangible benefit of consistently being rated the least corrupt country in the world. New Zealanders get upset when a parcel goes mysteriously missing in the post, the idea of seriously corrupt police or customs officials is simply unimaginable in this country. On the other side of that coin, the high price, low quality and scarcity of supply means that home cooks of methamphetamine found a huge unsatisfied demand for amphetamine type drugs, which they happily filled with the worst possible product. I have read that the relative success of US customs and police agencies in detecting cocaine imports has led to similar market gap, and it has been filled in a similar way by methamphetamine in the USA. Given how heavily armed they are over there, the consequences of that can be imagined.

    I’ve never really been interested in pointless philosophical debates about whether or not the state has a right to tell you what you can and can’t take and all the dumb-ass libertarian hand wringing that goes with that debate. To me the issue is really one of simple practicality. Every human society there ever has been has found ways to get high. It seems to be as inbuilt as the sex drive. Trying to stop that sort impulse with a “war on drugs” is an exercise in fruitlessness. Secondly, almost all drug crime and the associated health issues are related to the fact it is an illegal activity.

    I’ve always thought the ridiculously draconian penalties and enforcement measures for drug offences reflect more the complete inability of the authorities to do anything about drug use than the actual social harm that most of those drugs cause. The economics of drug dealing are simple enough though. The economics of drug dealing is not in the manufacturing process. It is in the DISTRIBUTION that the costs are incurred. Each person of a clandestine distribution network adds his or hers cut to the final price, with the amount being set in proportion to the risks being taken; The further from the big time dealers, the more the end user pays. Hence, more and more draconian laws and enforcement simply provides a perverse incentive, since all they do is create more risk. Drug dealing in that sense is pure capitalism, with more risk equaling higher returns. The problem then cannot be solved in the supply side; it needs to be dealt with in the demand side. Legalising drugs makes sense because it removes the price incentive for organised crime to be involved in the distribution. If heroin, meth, E, cocaine and the like were to be legalised by the state who fixed the price and controlled manufacture and distribution most of our drug problems would vanish overnight. The thing is, we’ve been here before and we’ve adopted a pragmatic approach in the past to a rampant illegal activity the state couldn’t stamp out – and that was with gambling. The state realised it couldn’t stop people gambling so it was decided if people were going to do it, it might as well be made it a state monopoly to control and manage it and make a dollar out of it. No one today seriously believes gambling should be illegal with life sentences for those who take bets, or that people who like gambling should be sent to jail for five, ten or fifteen years, or that gambling addiction is primarily a problem for health and/or councilling services. Yet we still insist on trying this approach with drugs.

    Laws can only be enforced if society is willing to support the authorities in enforcing them. Our society tacitly tolerates and accepts an entire network of drug dealers. Everyone knows someone they can get some weed, a few pills or some other powder or potion. There are hundreds of thousands of new Zealanders who routinely keep information of this kind – information of serious “criminal” activity from the police. This is because many New Zealanders know that drugs are nothing like as dangerous as enforcement industry complex of drug councillors, alarmist moral panic merchants, police, customs, and all the others who benefit from keeping drugs illegal would have us all believe. Almost everyone takes illegal drugs until they get to old to handle the recovery, or the career means they afford the down time on Monday, or they get married, a mortgage and all the other responsibilities of growing up. At that point they stop, without much fuss or effort. The few that develop problems would be less than those who develop drinking problems.

    That should give us all a view on just how “dangerous” illegal drugs really are.

    Comment by Tom Semmens — October 12, 2009 @ 6:58 pm

  21. What Tom said..

    Comment by Rich — October 12, 2009 @ 10:35 pm

  22. @Tom
    I agree with you. Drug addiction should be treated as a health problem, not a criminal one. Criminalising drug use just makes more problems.

    Another benefit of framing drug addiction as a health issue is that the health sector understands drugs. We are talking about a cough medicine’s “key” ingredient, which can be refined into a potent recreational drug. Medicalised forms of cocaine and heroin exist in New Zealand, but they are highly restricted pharmaceuticals.

    Comment by Adhominem — October 13, 2009 @ 5:29 am

  23. But that ignores the differencs between drugs. How many heroin addicts have attacked people with Samuri swords when high on their drug of choice?

    Heroin addicts tend to be selfish and self-absorbed, P addicts become violent thugs.

    I have no sympathy for either but am willing to let the first group quietly destroy their own lives but P with addicts the very nature of the drug means they are a far greater risk to others and should be treated much harsher.

    Comment by Neil — October 13, 2009 @ 6:55 am

  24. but as a proportion, neil. do you have any stats for that? P may make people more violent, but how many users actually do that shit? from the media we can prob name 5, out of how many thousand users?

    Comment by Chris — October 13, 2009 @ 7:39 am

  25. I was responding to “Secondly, almost all drug crime and the associated health issues are related to the fact it is an illegal activity.”

    which assumes that all drugs are the same. P causes permanent brain damage, heroin does not. P makes people violent, heroin does not.

    Anyone who uses P I would treat with extreme caution.

    I would support decriminalising heroin since lots of self-absorbed sleepy people I can handle. People on the fries. no.

    Comment by Neil — October 13, 2009 @ 7:46 am

  26. neil’s right. junkies are just plain fcked. p-junkies are just plain fcked, AND a public menace.

    having dealt with both i know which is worse.

    Comment by Che Tibby — October 13, 2009 @ 8:55 am

  27. ………….. I think its the lack of sleep that makes them violent.

    Or have I somehow missed noticing an epidemic of samari sword attacks and beatings that the light bulb crowd are causing ??????? .

    There is actually a wave of drug violence that hits NZ each weekend. The drug P iss and its consumption are DIRECTLY related to increased violence, sexual attacks, accidents, ill health and drug addiction.

    But greedy john and the nats response to our countrys ‘drug problem’ is to make it more expensive to get effective medicine for the symptoms of flu’s and cold’s.

    Is this where boot camp thinking naturally takes you ? .

    As far as responses go its a cycle way of a good idea …………….

    Comment by nznative — October 13, 2009 @ 12:01 pm

  28. What -choke- Tom & Neil said!
    Brewing and distilling is legal nowdays, resulting in few brewers chopping their business-partner’s hands off and dumping the body at Red Rocks before accepting the assistance of witnesses in freeing their bogged-down car during the getaway. Legalising would be a great way to free up prison space for disgraced MPs.

    There will be a consequence in legalising all the drugs mentioned, but the cops are used to dealing with (to?) drunks. But just as very few drinkers are drunks, I’m sure few smokers will become samuri swordsmen.
    I read a statistic that over 500,000 party pills are popped every night of the week in the UK as grown adults enjoy themselves. Not my cup of tea, but then neither is tea.

    Comment by Clunking Fist — October 13, 2009 @ 5:25 pm

  29. “I read a statistic that over 500,000 party pills are popped every night of the week in the UK as grown adults enjoy themselves.”

    I have no problem with E. People spouting gushy nonsense into the wee hours is quite fun. Again, you’re overlooking the fact that different drugs have different effects.

    A friend of mine never got into into trouble on E. But he’s got arrested on P.

    With alcohol most people can use that drug socially with no problem. The chances of that happening with P is far less. P makes everyone nasty, greedy and potentially violent.

    Comment by Neil — October 13, 2009 @ 5:39 pm

  30. I was going to say that why P is different is partly to so with its very short half-life. One reason why cocain can cause more prblems than the opiates. Brief highs followed by sevree cravings is a recipe for trouble.

    Comment by Neil — October 13, 2009 @ 5:42 pm

  31. it is a lot to do with the sleep deprivation. it makes me crazy for starters, but they also start looking for things to do to amuse themselves.

    it’s like heaping a whole lot of crazy on top of a good firm bed of stupid.

    LSD is another example of a commonly and heavily used drug (in the 1990s) that lead to few arrests for violent or antisocial behaviour. back then people of my acquaintance referred to crystal meth as something like “that stupid biker drug”. i went overseas, came back, and everyone was into the stuff.

    bad news, bad times.

    Comment by Che Tibby — October 13, 2009 @ 7:07 pm

  32. It’s not just the sleep deprivation, but the frank psychosis that makes P,(and Meth)a different sort of nasty. I’ve lost count of the number of P induced psychotic people i’ve interviewed over the last 5 years,but I do know none of them have ever said they enjoyed that state.

    Comment by Ian Goodwin — October 13, 2009 @ 8:37 pm

  33. yeah, I think those of us who are generally sceptical of prohibition and prefer harm minimisation should be wary about P. It’s different and bad.

    there is a lot if hysteria about drugs – people who drink alcohol think heroin users are evil etc – it’s hard to get sensible laws.

    Comment by Neil — October 13, 2009 @ 8:50 pm

  34. People spouting gushy nonsense into the wee hours is quite fun.

    (Hmm, is Neil refering to blogging or party pills..?)

    The UK statistic was for party pills, (benzylpiperazine or phenylpiperazine?). Is that the same as E? I tried to read a definition of E here: http://www.cads.org.nz/Sorted/ecstasy.asp but got lost when they started mentioning the other drugs. I’ve stolen puffs from others’ spliffs in my student days, but that’s the limit for me (and vodka).

    Comment by Clunking Fist — October 14, 2009 @ 12:52 pm

  35. I recall this government using phrases like “nanny state” about the previous government.
    Micro chipping dogs ears to stop the dogs biting people springs to mind.
    This brilliant piece of “focus group” policy making also encouraged the people who did not register the dogs they owned to register their dogs . Yeah right.

    Hindering people who occasionally purchase pseudoephridine for relief from cold systems is going to stop
    P labs? Yeah right!

    Comment by peter sim — October 16, 2009 @ 8:51 pm

  36. Clunking Fist – If you don’t even know the difference between a piperazine and MDMA, why are you even bothering to make extensive comments on the subject? Par for the course with the right-wing commentariat though…

    Comment by Sanctuary — October 17, 2009 @ 1:49 pm

  37. <iClunking Fist – If you don’t even know the difference between a piperazine and MDMA, why are you even bothering to make extensive comments on the subject? Par for the course with the right-wing commentariat though…

    To be fair, his knowledge is about the same as the average Member of Parliament, who are generally clueless on the things they are voting on (the ones in select committee tend to know more, by necessity). Most have no idea that Amphetamine and Methamphetamine are different drugs.

    Interestingly enough Wikipedia tells of a new method production method.

    In 2009, it was reported that a new, cheaper, and simpler method of production known as “shake-and-bake” had been invented. The new method uses an amount of pseudoephedrine so small that it falls under the legal reportage requirements, and is so easy to carry out that some addicts have made the drug while driving

    Whether this is related to the current ephedrine withdrawal I do not know.

    Comment by George Darroch — October 17, 2009 @ 2:52 pm

  38. As a taxpayer and lawabiding consumer, I’m allowed an opinion. My comments revolve around freedom and responsibility rather than chemistry.

    “his knowledge is about the same as the average Member of Parliament” perhaps I should stand? The pay’s not bad…

    Comment by Clunking Fist — October 19, 2009 @ 6:21 am

  39. The new method uses an amount of pseudoephedrine so small that it falls under the legal reportage requirements, and is so easy to carry out that some addicts have made the drug while driving.

    Adding an appropriate clause to the no hand-held cellphones while driving legislation should fix that.

    Comment by joe W — October 19, 2009 @ 7:17 am


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