This is one of those stories that is true, but not true. Some crazy drug legislation was passed in Queensland with zero foresight or critical thinking involved in just how broadly it would effect, well, pretty much the whole economy of Queensland.
Last week the QLD government passed the Criminal Law Amendment Bill 2012. As a result, many harmless chemicals, foodstuffs and herbal medicines were inadvertently banned including the popular cold and flu herb, Echinacea; the popular sleep tonic, Tryptophan; saffron; chocolate and even the unthinkable – alcohol.
The new laws state that if the ‘intent’ of a substance is to have similar effects to a banned or dangerous drug, the substance virtually becomes the drug.
Eros (The Adults Only Association) CEO, Fiona Patten said that the science of pharmacology examined which receptors a substance binds to in the body. By matching the receptor-binding qualities of commonly used substances with the receptor-binding qualities of currently scheduled drugs, it was possible to show how the pharmacological analogy laws would capture many legal compounds. [ Melbournecriminallawyersblog.com ]
The article elaborates on how alcohol, chocolate, saffron, skullcap, tryptophan and a laundry list of other substances commonly found in foods can be banned under this new legislation, all because they contain substances that act on certain neurotransmitters that could be said to give the ‘user’ an effect that mimics illegal substances, such as amphetamines, MDMA or barbiturates.
Reading the entirety of the article will give you a comprehensive idea of just how ill wrought this legislation was. But let’s look beyond that. Stores tomorrow aren’t going to strip the shelves of chocolate, and bottle shops aren’t going to close. The legislators never really intended that. They were just stupid and didn’t think through their actions. But legislation can be rewritten, and it will be, because every businessman and politician and Queensland enjoys their alcohol and the occasional chocolate bar.
So What’s The Real Motivation?
At the bottom of the article there’s an update:
As Criminal Lawyers we believe this is an important issue for people to be aware of. Governments are trying to make what are currently legal highs illegal. They are trying to change criminal laws to make broad categories illegal. Previously they had found a product and then specifically made it illegal which was a much better system although still flawed. – Bill Doogue
There’s the rub, it’s about the synthetic highs you can purchase at sex shops or other herbal friendly outlets in Queensland. These drugs don’t mimic the effects of the illicit substances, but they can produce altered states and add varying degrees to the intensity of an experience, be it dancing, listening to music, or socializing.
JWH-018 is one of the more potent of the synthetic THC substitutes that has been on the market for some time. It’s actually far worse than cannabis; you could lazily describe it as having most of the adverse effects of cannabis with few of the positive. If JWH-018, and similar compounds are more dangerous than genuine cannabis, why not just make it illegal? Well, there’s another perspective. If cannabis were legal, no one would be using that crap anyway.
There’s two important points to make here. While I pointed out that alcohol and chocolate aren’t on the chopping block, not really, the herbs such as skullcap, and perhaps even echinacea – had I mentioned that one was on the list too? – might well be in danger of being banned.
Neither of these substances are harmful, both are medicinal. Skullcap has weak activity on GABA receptors, making it a useful alternative to benzodiazepines, or a good way to cut down on smoking tobacco when mixed with passion flower and damiana. Echinacea is a herb pretty much everyone is aware of. Some claim it’s a mere placebo and it’s nothing to write home about, and others swear by it, claiming it’s a sure fire method when combined with vitamin C – maybe a bit of garlic – for staving off illnesses, or at least shortening their duration.
The pharmaceutical industry does not benefit when someone chooses kava, or skullcap over prescribed anti-anxiety and anti-depressant medication. Nor does the tobacco or alcohol industries thrive when herbal alternatives, such as cannabis, or any number of other still legal, for the most part, herbs are used. Of course you’ll notice plenty of herbs listed in the ingredients at pharmacies and chemists in Australia, but the extract isn’t as healthy and often times less potent as the plant, which has other alkaloids that naturally balance out the more active compounds sought to package into a pill for a higher profit.
Now To Address The Elephant In The Room
Now to the obvious problem in general with the war on drugs. People like to get high. They want to get drunk, stoned, hopped up on caffeine, carry a sugar addiction throughout life they never realized they had, or alter their consciousness into some exotic state for a period of time, be it psychedelic or more of a dream like opiate experience.
Can bad things happen when people use drugs? Sure, check out the statistics on deaths attributed to tobacco, alcohol, prescribed and over the counter drugs, and then let’s have an honest conversation about why cannabis shouldn’t be legal. Once that hurdle has been cleared, maybe a coherent argument can be made against why adults should not be able to experiment with DMT, or magic mushrooms, or LSD.
In the US, in the last decade, about 3400 people have died from terrorist attacks, around 900,000 from gun related deaths, and as not to insult the reader, I think we can agree the number of alcohol related deaths – be it from overdose, violence or drunk driving, and deaths attributed to smoking cigarettes would pale in comparison to the grand total – unnecessary drum roll please as we’ve all heard it before – of zero deaths attributed to smoking cannabis.
The Inevitable Impact On More Drug Laws
And now to the point I’ve been leading up to this whole time. We can make these new designer drugs illegal, the ones meant to ‘mimic the effects of already illicit drugs’, but we’re just going to create more criminals in our society. There’s just going to be more drugs on the circuit, sold in the black market to people who have no idea what they’re really ingesting, or in what exact quantities. The government won’t get the benefit of taxing these substances, instead they’ll spend our tax money on misallocating police resources and on incarceration.
And just exactly what would happen if we legalized illicit drugs? In Portugal drug usage declined by half over ten years, and drug related crime plummeted, given the almost immediate dissolution of a great portion of the black market’s trade. By any measure, be it economic or human decency, we need to stop expanding the war on drugs. And end it.