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Banning legal highs 'not core council business'

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

"There have been intermittent calls for further government crackdowns on the legal high industry by those involved in local body politics, most recently from the Team Manurewa organisation, who believe New Zealand should emulate steps taken in New South Wales to ban all psychoactive substances. In the interests of harm minimisation, individual freedom and small local government, these calls should be ignored by Auckland Council," says Stephen Berry.

"This year the National Government passed pragmatic legislation aimed at maintaining some standards of safety in psychoactive substances.. While I have long been on public record as opposing the unrealistic and hypocritical threshold involved in proving a substance to be safe, and continue to maintain that position, I concede that the law did at least set up a framework for these substances to continue to be sold without resorting to the ineffective club of total prohibition."

Stephen Berry recognises that some nasty substances have resulted from the legal high industry but claims this is the result of prohibition rather than the legal high industry itself. "New Zealand previously had some relatively safe recreational legal substances in the form of benzyl piperazine and the ingredients in the very earliest forms of cannabis substitutes. Unfortunately a combination of a small number of cases of irresponsible use, coupled with nosey neighbourhood crusaders and a scandal driven media eventually resulted in their ban. As time has gone on, activist pressure has resulted in more products being banned and what has replaced them has often been filthier, nastier and more harmful. Many of the synthetic cannabis products on the market prior to the new laws were harmful because of prohibition rather than because of a lack of it. Indeed there is a strong case for the claim that if relatively benign genuine cannabis were legal, the market for synthetic alternatives would disappear."

"The crusaders for bans on new liquor stores, gambling venues and legal high retailers are usually driven by a wowserish desire to ensure the lives of everyone else are as miserable as their own. They’re convinced that their idea of how one should live their day to day life is so superior that everyone else should be forced to adopt it." Manurewa Action Local Board member Simeon Brown is a prime example of moral crusaders who value personal prejudice over logic. "Mr. Brown advocates the Manurewa Local Board ban sales of legal highs in their board area even if they are proven completely safe. That position is ridiculously totalitarian."

Mr. Berry believes the concepts of individual choice and personal responsibility are far better than any prohibitionist approach to the various vices hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders choose to enjoy. "Our country does not have issues with alcohol because of its availability. Issues with alcohol are the result of a culture that promotes excess and individuals that do not take responsibility for their own behaviour. No amount of new laws and regulations will make a dent in this. It is for individuals to willingly change their own behaviour, not politicians to implement more and more bans. One only needs look at the result of US alcohol prohibition in the 1920s and the result of widespread drug prohibition today to see that more laws will not only be ineffective but actually exacerbate the problems associated with enjoying vice."

"Preventing new liquor stores does not prevent the supply of alcohol, nor dent the profitability of its sale. What it does do is entrench the existing operators and maintain their profits. Were the market allowed to decide how many alcohol retailers are appropriate, the sales of the product would be spread amongst a greater number of players in a more crowded market resulting in liquor retailing actually being less profitable than it is under the current regime."

"The Government has put in place regulations to deal with alcohol and legal highs at a national level and those regulations are more than enough. Local government should not be getting more involved. Councils and local bodies already tax, spend and borrow far too much. The last thing they should be doing is getting involved in the personal lives of individuals as well."

Stephen Berry was the Affordable Auckland candidate for Auckland Mayor in the 2013 local body elections.. He finished in third place receiving 13,560 votes. Affordable Auckland’s five core policies did not include how legal high regulation should be approached and the party membership includes a range of views.

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