For decades the approach to drug use by the ruling class was to ban some drugs and regulate others. The current conventional approach to drugs: is the US led “war on drugs” or “narcotics”. This is contrasted with the right to sell other equally or more damaging drugs such as alcohol and tobacco. The lessons of prohibition of alcohol in many countries led to organised crime, and the same is true of the prohibition on narcotics.
There is a growing recognition that the social costs of prohibition of cannabis vastly outweigh its benefits. This has seen a swing away from prohibition towards the introduction of legalised and regulated synthetic cannabis. After years of playing catch up with organised crime in drugs, NZ Governments took the step to allow the sale of ‘legal highs’ that have been tested for safety and under strict controls.
From being sold in thousands of dairies & convenience stores and little control over the distribution the Interim Agreement allowed no more than50 chemicals to be sold from no more than 200 stores with R18 rules. (While they were being tested).
A new frontier of capitalism was opened with this new set of commodities: production, packaging and marketing companies for these chemicals taking home super-profits. The newly synthesised psychoactive substances were capitalised – taxable, profitable, cowboy capitalism. They fitted a market segment – cheaper than cannabis, and thought to be a way to avoid workplace drug screening (and legal anyway). ‘Legal highs’ were not tested on animals or humans: It was a grand scale experiment with the NZ population. A few chemicals failed the safety test by causing direct harm that was reported to the ministry of health, and were removed from the ‘legal’ (regulated) regime. There are many other things we don’t know about the impact of the availability of legal highs. E.g. if alcohol sales were reduced by the intro of ‘legal highs’, or if cannabis consumption reduced: if the corresponding legal or illegal markets were under profit squeeze? We don’t know if drug (& alcohol) related traffic crashes were reduced during the period of legality.
Capitalism has failed to measure the damage or risk of drugs. Instead drugs like alcohol & tobacco which are profitable and taxed hugely and create massive damage;