Synthetic drugs – the new Cold War?

Steven Bailey 19 April 2016 8


Last week two young men died tragically in Queensland after smoking a form of synthetic cannabis. The media and police wasted no time in attributing the deaths directly to the use of the synthetic substance, unfortunately in the absence of a proper investigation into the actual causes of death.

Eros Social Tonics Coordinator Nick Wallis said that media conjecture on the circumstantial evidence that was available was not sufficient to establish a cause and effect situation.

Wallis said that if the deaths were found to be linked to the use of synthetic cannabinoids, then legislators would have to shoulder most of the responsibility in that they have failed to provide a regulatory scheme that keeps dangerous drugs out of the marketplace.

“We have long argued that this problem will not go away by increasing prohibition laws and increasing the ‘tough on drugs’ rhetoric,” he said.

“The fact is, these substances exist as a direct response to prohibition and more prohibition will only deliver more drugs into the community.”

The Australian Science Media Centre quoted Richard Kevin, a PhD student studying synthetic cannabinoids.

He said: “Even when a specific synthetic drug is outlawed, or even an entire class of drugs, the molecular structure can often be tweaked slightly so that the new compound falls outside of existing legislation. This results in a large variety of synthetic cannabinoids with largely unknown toxicity.”

Senior Australian National University Clinical Lecturer in Medicine, Dr David Caldicott, has called on governments to look for better solutions.

“We need wittier and wiser responses to the problem of harm from drugs if these deaths are not to become a more frequent occurrence in a generation of young Australians,” he said.

Only two days after the tragic incident in Queensland a small business in Canberra was raided by police and a reported $25,000 of synthetic cannabis was seized. The raid was conducted after police received a tipoff from the public.

With respect to cannabis in the ACT, it is illegal to:

  • Administer it to someone else
  • Possess any quantity of it
  • Cultivate or be involved in cultivating any quantity of it
  • Sell or supply any quantity of it.

Penalties start at $100 fines for simple cannabis offences, and range up to $250,000 fines and life imprisonment for more serious cannabis offences.

Last week was a grim reminder of the futility with which governments and authorities across Australia approach the simple reality that people, regardless of the law, will and have always taken drugs. It is time for politicians to start taking personal responsibility for the unethical and simplistic laws which are creating a chemical arms race throughout Australia.

Regulation is the only way to stop criminal cartels. Regulation and education is the only way that citizens will be able to make informed decisions. It is my position that governments not only insult the public by perpetuating the unwinnable war on drugs, they also insult the police who are forced to fight the unwinnable war.

The policies of Australian governments, including the ACT, result in young people being exposed to criminals and dangerous substances that otherwise would not exist without the immoral prohibitionist policies of the major political parties.

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8 Responses to Synthetic drugs – the new Cold War?
Steven Bailey Steven Bailey 9:23 pm 21 Jan 15

Grimm said :

There are already enough drugo losers around, leeching off social security and being a general waste of oxygen. They don’t need to be encouraged by legalising drugs and supporting or normalising their poor decisions.

Your suggestion may well take the crime element away, but at what social cost? I see no benefit at all to normalising drug abuse.

Thank, I take your point. It’s not about normalising behaviour; it’s about removing the failed and expensive policies of prohibition. Prohibition proliferates more drugs and more drug use. If you think that all people who are addicted to drugs, that’s fine and your right to do so. Of course, I have a different opinion. Why would you want Australia to pay $3.5 billion per year on people you care so little about?

On another note, the best way to keep people off the streets, off drugs, and out of crime, is to give them the opportunities in life to get a job – much better than putting them behind bars. Removing prohibition is a step towards making our society safer and more humane.

Grimm Grimm 5:25 pm 21 Jan 15

There are already enough drugo losers around, leeching off social security and being a general waste of oxygen. They don’t need to be encouraged by legalising drugs and supporting or normalising their poor decisions.

Your suggestion may well take the crime element away, but at what social cost? I see no benefit at all to normalising drug abuse.

Steven Bailey Steven Bailey 11:43 pm 20 Jan 15

We all need to take responsibility for the type of society in which we live. So, to a certain extent, yes. I am making the point that prohibitive drug laws cause more harm than would be caused without them. New and more dangerous substances are concocted as a response to certain substances being prohibited. Criminals try to get around the law by tinkering with the molecular makeup of a certain substance. It is impossible for lawmakers to win against this modern development. This also results in making it impossible for people to know what they are taking, which robs them of their ability to make an informed choice.
People who are addicted to dangerous drugs are often addicted due to a plethora of circumstances out of their control; there’s no reason for these people to be behind bars.

Masquara Masquara 9:35 pm 20 Jan 15

Sad, but not really a tragedy, Steven.

Pragmatix Pragmatix 3:13 pm 20 Jan 15

Steven, if law makers should take responsibility for people who die from drugs under prohibition, would you be willing to take responsibility for people dying from drugs under regulation?

Weatherman Weatherman 10:38 am 20 Jan 15

ABC reported that police believed the product to be Full Moon brand of synthetic cannabis was responsible for two men’s deaths in Mackay. Images taken showed that the product was synthetic cocaine. A powdery substance that is diluted in water. These products are known to be more dangerous than synthetic cannabis, as they are designed to have the effect of hard drugs.

Synthetic cannabis is a product which is based upon herbal smoking leaf that is sprayed with synthetic cannabinoids that has been sold for many years now. It is widely available in New Zealand corner stores and American roadhouses and service stations.

watto23 watto23 4:44 pm 19 Jan 15

Just like road tolls, people need to understand we will never eliminate deaths from drugs completely from society. People die from prescription drugs, let alone the many that die from illegal drugs. I know in NZ they are selling synthetic and fairly safe drugs legally. Not sure about the effect of it and whether that has been a success in NZ. Prohibition never solves these kinds of problems.

HenryBaits HenryBaits 2:46 pm 19 Jan 15

It’s true. Sometimes I think there are just two types of people in this world. Those who understand that prohibition has the opposite effect to its intention and those who don’t understand. We have no political leadership from the major parties on this issue. But Steven, you do have to acknowledge that people will always die from drugs and that your solution is not perfect.

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