Thursday, 6 March 2008

Fisking the forthcoming Party Pill ban

The government is now one step closer to putting party pills in the hands of criminals while turning  consumers of party pills onto possibly harder alternatives -- all because legislation outlawing the active ingredient in party pills passed its second reading in Parliament last night.   Comrade Jim Neanderton spoke on behalf of the War on Drugs.  Guest poster Mike Earley fisks Neanderton's rhetoric for sense, and finds him waging an equal War on Common Sense [MikeE's comments on Neanderton's speech are in italics]:

This Bill removes the legal market for what are called 'party pills'.

[And creates an illicit one, run by criminals.]

I'm pleased that after looking at the Bill the Health Committee has recommended it should proceed without amendment. The Health Committee has worked hard in its consideration of this legislation and I would like to thank all members of the Committee for their valuable work.

[And the health committee ignored 80% of the submissions to the select committee, including the one that noted the clear breech of the NZ Bill of Rights Act, the health select committee also ignored the overwhelming evidence against the level of harm they claim for BZP.]

It is helpful to go back to the origins of the Bill to explain what these amendments do.

In June 2005 this House passed a Misuse of Drugs Amendment Act that made it an offense to supply BZP to anyone under the age of 18, to give away products containing BZP and to advertise BZP.

[This was suggested by the industry, as a measure of self regulation and harm reduction, this had a support of the majority of the industry, and the community at large, along with most interesting groups.]

Those controls were introduced so that there were some controls on BZP while research was carried out into the drug.

[Some of the research was cancelled due to flaws and bias; the rest could not conclude any major level of harm higher than other legal substances.]

The fear was that it could be harmful and parliament took a precautionary approach while we sorted out the facts. Parliament should always make decisions on the basis of the best evidence available.

[This fear proved to be unfounded, and the precautionary approach proved to be unnecessary, with over 26 million pills sold, no deaths, and very little adverse events, all caused by irresponsible use, and mixing BZP with legal and illegal drugs. By comparison, alcohol is responsible for approximately 3% of all adult male deaths in NZ.]

Last year, the Ministry of Health received more evidence, and it brought us to this Bill today. The Expert Advisory Committee on Drugs advised that the independent research which this government commissioned showed BZP and related substances pose a moderate risk of harm.

[A moderate risk of harm, is harm lower than that of Alcohol and cigarettes, and considerably lower than the level of harm of a prison sentence which would be given to those who do consume BZP. A moderate risk of harm constitutes a hangover, and an incredibly small risk of adverse events]

This is not the assessment of politicians: It is the assessment of experts on the panel we appoint to give us the benefit of their expertise. Once this House is advised that there is a risk of harm, what is it going to do with that information?

[The panel is politically motivated, as mentioned the risk of harm is incredibly low, especially when compared to the punishment, and the harm caused by other socially acceptable and legal substances enjoyed by New Zealand politicians, many of whom would receive donations from liquor companies and the like.]

Just over a year ago, on 20 December 2006, I publicly released the committee's advice and began a consultation process on classification. The consultation closed in March and the submissions were analyzed

[almost 80% of these submissions were disregarded and ignored]

The expert committee met again in May with more up to date evidence and again advised a majority view of EACD members that BZP posed a moderate risk of harm.

[Again, a moderated risk of harm is less than that of beer, something which is enjoyed legally by many New Zea landers without threat of a prison sentence.]

This Bill puts the committee's recommendations to me into effect.

It will classify BZP and related substances as Class C1 controlled drugs under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975.

It will set a threshold for presuming possession for supply at 5 grams, or 100 tablets or pills, each containing some quantity of BZP and related substances.

[This threshold, for a product less harmful than Beer, is the same as of drugs such as Heroin and Pure amphetamine Does the minister consider BZP to be of the same harm to society as these dangerous substances.]

It will remove BZP from Schedule 4 of the Misuse of Drugs Amendment Act 2005 so it can no longer be sold as a restricted substance

[Instead BZP will be sold illegally, and a monopoly for supply will be given to criminal gangs, this is in essence a subsidy, by the government to criminals. Either this, or consumers will turn to other illicit drugs as a substitute.]

It also provides for an amnesty period of six months for possession and/or use of less than the presumption for supply amount of 5 grams or 100 tablets.

[This presumption for supply is ridiculously low, and is the same as heroin or amphetamines]

I want to briefly deal with some of the issues raised at the Select Committee.

[These issues were raised and largely ignored.]

Some submitters claimed that the expert committee relied on incomplete or non peer reviewed information when it made its recommendation that BZP poses a moderate risk of harm.

Their claims do not stand up to scrutiny. After the expert committee provided its advice to me the Ministry of Health arranged for key studies to be peer reviewed. These peer reviews - and researchers' responses to these peer reviews - were considered by the EACD in May before it re-affirmed its recommendation to me to classify BZP as a class C1 drug.

[The MP is either lying, or unaware of the facts; it is clearly documented that the MRINZ study referred to by the EACD did not stand up either to scrutiny or to peer review. The documents relating to this were released under the Official Information Act.]

I have thought carefully about other concerns, and especially the concern that a classification of BZP might lead some people to other, potentially more harmful drugs.

[Which anecdotal evidence suggests it will do, and studies by Massey University and SHORE support.]

Those sorts of choices are always, to some extent, influenced by both personal and environmental factors.

I am convinced that a large number of people use BZP because it is legal and readily available.

[This is true, but banning it will reduce supply, not demand, the MP is clearly aware of even the basic principles of economics.]

There is an analogy with alcohol. Alcohol is easily New Zealand's most damaging drug. But that is not because it is our most intrinsically harmful drug; It's because alcohol is both legal and easily available.

[Alcohol is however more harmful than BZP].

If we remove the legal market for BZP-based party pills, large numbers of users will stop using the substances they are made from. These are substances that experts consider pose a moderate risk of harm.

[Instead it creates an illegal market for BZP, while some will stop using BZP others will continue to do so illegally, or move to other illicit or legal substitutes which are potentially more harmful instead.]

I know this issue is a concern to the Green party. I find it extraordinary that a party that campaigns against breakfast cereal and coca-cola, wants to liberalise the availability of something experts say poses a moderate risk of harm.

When it comes to GMOs, the Greens advocate a precautionary principle. When it comes to fisheries protection, the Greens advocate a precautionary approach. When it comes to a drug - assessed by experts as harmful - suddenly the Green party appears to throw caution to the winds.

How can you be against Coca Cola, and in favour of party pills – even the regulated kind?

[Fair point, but this pulls apart the Greens' argument against Coca Cola -- it doesn't support his argument against BZP.]

How can you be against fishing companies, chicken farmers and pig farms and in favour of psychoactive drug manufacturers and suppliers?

[As above]

Where there is money to be made, unfortunately, some people will take their opportunities and party pills are no exception. The existence of party pills didn't stop manufacturers trying to find other products to bring to market - just as apples don't keep oranges off the market.

[And there is nothing wrong with manufacturers making money off BZP, that is unless you are anti business. The incentive now is for manufacturers to find a new product, which may or may not be as safe as BZP, only time will tell.]

So the only responsible and precautionary approach is for the Ministry of Health to monitor substances and weigh up the facts as they become available.

[The precautionary approach suggests regulation, not a ban.]

Already the Ministry has advised that any product which contains substances it believes are controlled drug analogues are illegal.

[Which is likely to be against the bill of rights as well as it presumes guilt until proven innocent, rather than innocence until proven guilty, it also does nothing to reduce harm.]

Police have already taken action against one such product, and it has since been withdrawn from sale.

[This was EASE, which Jim Anderton allowed into the country and allowed to be sold until EACD changed their mind about it]

In other words, the law is working as it was meant to do.

[If this is the case, then why does the law need to be amended?]

Not only that, but the Ministry of Health is working with the Law Commission to develop a 'reverse onus of proof' to ensure controls around substances entering the market are tightened up. It is my view that psychoactive drugs should have to be proved safe by their manufacturers before they are put on sale – not by government agencies afterwards.

{A reverse onus of proof may also be against the bill of rights act]

I also acknowledge concern about the potential to criminalise 'party pill' users. It's to avoid punishing people unfairly that the Bill has a six month amnesty period for possession of less than 5 grams or 100 tablets. The amnesty ensures there's enough time between this Bill taking effect and users of party pills facing prosecution.

[This makes no sense, if BZP is so bad, why allow an amnesty, how is consuming BZP now ok, but in 6 months its not. The amnesty is senseless if the Government truly believes that BZP is so harmful that people should be criminalised for its use.]

Manufacturers and retailers of the drug will, under a Supplementary Order Paper drafted to amend the original enactment date of 18 December 2007 which was not able to be met, have 7 days after this Bill receives Royal Assent to stop making and selling BZP and related substances. As most of them anticipated this bill coming into force in December, I don't foresee any problems

[He obviously doesn't have an understanding of commerce -- as the bill didn't come into force in December, then no one knew when it would come into force.].

I know the Green Party and the Maori party believe regulation of BZP is preferable to classification.

I have considered that point carefully. But the advice of the expert committee is clear - these substances are harmful enough to warrant classification.

[No they are not, they are less harmful that substances that are available legally and enjoyed by large amounts of the community]

Ignoring clear, evidence-based, expert advice is tantamount to voting for more harm to be caused to more people.

[The Health select committee has ignored almost all evidence that there is against a ban, they went into the select committee process with the intentition of a ban, and were not interested in any evidence to the contrary, this was a political decision, when it should be, as our drug policy states, be about harm reduction]

I suggest to those parties that their support for an approach which experts say will harm people is morally indefensible. When we are presented in this house with evidence, and when we can help prevent harm, that is what we should do.

[The MP is correct, however he doesn't realise why. BZP is less harmful than a prison sentence, people who support an approach that harms people against their will is morally indefensible, criminalising BZP users does just that.]

Let's be clear about the people those parties are saying they want to harm:

One in five New Zealanders aged thirteen to 45.

[This bill will potentially turn one in 5 New Zealanders aged 13 to 45 into a criminal simply for what they choose to put in their body.]

New Zealanders as young as thirteen - even when the drug is regulated for over-18s. As long as the drug is lawfully distributed, thirteen year olds, and fourteen year olds, and fifteen years olds are fare too easily going to get it.

[This is already illegal, so irrelevant to the argument, also these kids can get illicit drugs easier than they can get alcohol After all illegal drug dealers don't ask ID]

They will have no trouble when their friends and brothers and sisters can go into gas stations and dairies and buy the pills, as they were doing.

[Then the existing law should be policed.]

When they take the drug, it has an effect on them similar to an amphetamine.

[Without the level of harm that amphetamines have.]

That is why experts consider it a moderate risk of harm.

[Which is lower than that of drinking Alcohol.]

I believe party pills will virtually disappear from New Zealand as a result of this classification.

[Just like Alcohol disappeared during the prohibition period, cannabis has disappeared with prohibition, P has disappeared, MDMA has disappeared, Cocaine has disappeared ...  and the list goes on.]

New Zealand now has an extensive body of evidence on BZP and related substances. The evidence shows it will be a good thing for the drug to disappear from New Zealand.

[none of the evidence supports this]

This legislation will remove legal access to BZP and related substances.

[And instead create an illegal market, increasing the risk of BZP harm when it is mixed with unknown substances.]

It will allow the Police and Customs to prevent these substances being imported and marketed and therefore causing the moderate risk of harm experts have identified.

[It will instead waste police and customs time, which could be spent on preventing crime, and protecting our borders.]


  1. I'd like to be able to buy heroin and cocaine legally. And of course, cannabis. Why don't the govt fuck off out of our lives...

  2. anonymous: The "govt" are just the elected representatives of the people who are peering disapprovingly over your fence. If you want access to a wholesale drug market on your doorstep you'll have to convince them it's a good idea.

  3. "If you want access to a wholesale drug market on your doorstep you'll have to convince them it's a good idea."

    You have got everything arse about face.

    It's none of their business what he buys, what he consumes. They need to convince him that they own his life.


  4. Richard McGrath7 Mar 2008, 09:48:00

    The gangs, Triads and other members of the underworld should send Jim Anderton et al a big thank you present for gifting them the BZP market on a silver platter.

  5. "They need to convince him that they own his life."

    But they didn't, did they? They ignored him and passed a dumb-arse law instead.

    Maybe I should have ignored him too. He's obviously a troll.

  6. The gangs, Triads and other members of the underworld should send Jim Anderton et al a big thank you present for gifting them the BZP market on a silver platter.

    Except that BZP is just a crappy MDMA-mimicker so there won't be much of a demand for it. Drug users will instead demand MDMA if they are that way inclined; with the end effect of little change in demand for illicit substances and little gain for the "gangs".


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