Why queues outside synthetic cannabis shop is proof regulation is working


Latest moral panic on synthetic cannabis is that there were queues waiting for a store to open over Easter.


Before the Psychoactive Substances Act (PSA), there were up to 6000 venders and hundreds of different brands. Since regulation via the PSA, the number of venders have plummeted to under 170 and the number of products have been slashed down to dozens. If you cut back all the booze outlets in NZ down to under 180 retailers, there would be queues twenty times the size of the ones outside the synthetic cannabis shops.

The latest news that only 1 in 100 beneficiaries were failing drug tests reminds us where this hunger for synthetic highs has come from while highlighting the insanity that synthetic cannabis is legal yet more harmful than the real cannabis which is illegal.

When are we going to grow up as a nation on this issue? You can’t ‘ban’ all synthetic cannabis, every time you do the chemists just change the chemical make up of the drug and return to market. If you want to see a decrease in synthetic cannabis use, make the real cannabis legal and regulate the hell out of that.

The total lack of political leadership on this is why we are getting no traction. My hope is that a possible solution to this impasse can occur between a MANA-Internet Party alliance.


  1. This ‘synthetic cannabis’ panic is a crock of shit. Imagine if there was one shop in Palmerston North where you could buy alcohol and cigarettes, and then picture for yourself the length of the queue outside that motherfucker at the end of Good Friday…

  2. I actually can’t see that this proves or disproves that regulation is working. All it suggests is that the same number of legal high junkies are buying their next fix from fewer retailers. The fact that people think it is worth queuing for hours just to buy their next fix is really sad and asks a lot of questions about what sort of society we have become.

    • Mike, I’m guessing you either live in a *really* small town, or you don’t get out much. Queues like that outside popular bars are a totally normal weekend sight in any city in the country. You could make disparaging comments about those people being “legal high junkies” too, and what their desperation to drink alcohol on a Friday or Saturday night says about our society, but it doesn’t really add up to a case for prohibition, does it.

    • I see queues outside bars all the time. Whether it is for alcohol, cannabis or synthetic highs doesn’t really matter. It is all about how our society is so dependant on drugs, life is not life unless you are constantly receiving a chemically-induced high. If you think this makes for a normal healthy society then that is your prerogative to think so, but I don’t agree, I think it is extremely sad and legalizing more drugs is not going to help in the slightest.

  3. I look at those queues and I wonder what has driven my fellow New Zealanders to this…

    This is not what I envisaged the 21st Century to look like, when I was a teenaged geek reading Heinlein, Clarke, Asimov, et al…

    • You were reading the wrong authors, Frank! Samuel R. Delaney, Mick Farren, William Gibson, they’d all recognise this future.

      Tangentially: By the time I was a teen geek reading Heinlein, all his books were largely about how hot young women tend to find rich, geriatric, strikingly-similar-to-a-certain-well-known-SF-author libertarians irresistably sexually attractive.

  4. Can any one tell me if the government is receiving any tax on the sales of Synthetic Cannabis? If they are then that explains why this government is allowing the sales. I can understand why cannabis is not legalised – every user would grow a few plants in their back yard – where would the government get their tax from then? Looks pretty foggy to me.

    • Only tax received is gst. The fees associated with getting the product to market could be considered a tax too.

    • If they are then that explains why this government is allowing the sales.

      Well, they are, because GST will be charged. However, your claim that it explains why the government allows sales of synthetic cannabis imitations has a bit of a hurdle to overcome – it would have to account for why the same doesn’t apply to ecstasy, cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin and various other drugs for which the government chooses to forego the potentially-lucrative GST income.

  5. …If you want to see a decrease in synthetic cannabis use, make the real cannabis legal and regulate the hell out of that.

    I’ll have a bit of a ramble here.

    I don’t think heavy regulation of legalised (real) cannabis is helpful either, heavy regulation can lead to its own problems always best to strive for balance. I think cannabis should be regulated in a manner similar to what’s currently found with alcohol and tobacco.

    As I understand it, one can produce one’s own alcohol and tobacco but can not sell it. The idea of banning a plant seems ridiculous to me anyway, unless it was damaging the natural ecology. In India and Central Asia cannabis can be found growing wild. Magic mushrooms are illegal here, yet they’re naturally occurring across the planet. How many people use magic mushrooms? Not many I imagine as there’s no spotlight. Those I’ve known who use it, use it rarely and have their own shamanistic beliefs regarding it. Cannabis is safer than magic mushrooms anyway.

    I can’t recall hearing any problems relating to home-brewed/grown alcohol/tobacco in this country. I think problems arise when substances are sold in a highly consumerist manner. Problems regarding convenience and higher consumption; high prices can create a lot of damage when one makes a habit of the substance through ruining the finances of oneself and others, do the taxes collected really go towards providing rehabilitation services? Those who produce their own product are regulated based on their production capability. Even though the end product is cheaper; time, effort and quantity can regulate consumption.

    To legalise cannabis I suggest: anyone be allowed to grow it but not sell it, licences required for commercial growers, prohibiting sales to minors, prohibiting and policing usage where ones reduced state of alertness could harm others (driving, some jobs, et cetera). How can the notion of regulating cannabis in a similar way to alcohol or tobacco be regarded as absurd when it is safer than the latter two?

    Perhaps life and a body of law will be easier for all if we didn’t take substances that altered our consciousness, but that’s not reality humans will always use such substances, some have benefits some do not and ensuring safety and fairness should be of paramount importance in any laws.

    What also drives people to take mind altering substances should be considered. I don’t know any long time pot aficionados who have, or would consider taking synthetic cannabis. Appears to me it’s a product that would appeal to youth. In which case I’m not surprised. To be frank, as the system currently is, for many young people there is no future here and abroad. The system is unrelenting in its demands, highly discriminatory and extremely unfair. That’s why I doubt there’ll ever be any drug reform here unless the system changes course and there is so much that requires a radical rethink to improve many people’s lives.

    I’ve never taken drugs, but I often think I could do fine with a trip to cloud nine. That’s how sweet life is here for many.

  6. Randomly tuning in to Campbell live outside a synthetics store was a horrible reminder of the weird and warped situation existing around legal synthetic cannabis which does and continues to harm and even kill. The government is complicit in twisting the twitch on the vulnerable and drug dependant by raising the price of a pharmacy prescription by $2 a pop. A mere nothing to a multi millionaire trader who can reach into the pantry for a bottle of his own bubbles at will, but for those with $20 or less for food and medication this is crippling.
    Peter Dunne standing so twee next to Campbell with his bow tie as people came and went and his obsequious, derogatory comments toward them highlighted the absolute disconnect of those who make the laws from those who suffer because of their elitist disdain for them. He was rude enough to remark that the mental health system showed how harmful marijuana was to people, conveniently forgetting that the other factors influencing brain chemistry, such as adequate diet, warm dry housing, clothing, footwear and self esteem, have been progressively siphoned out of circulation among the population by several generations of autocrats of his ilk.
    Legal highs and a vast array of pharmaceuticals dished out willly nilly by compromised health professionals keep the money rolling on in.
    The media is now conducting warfare on marijuana saying it causes heart disease. What they don’t factor in are GMOs in the food chain which are shown to cause allergic reactions across the board, precipitating heart disease amongst other things. I can’t see any national politician getting a grip on how to de-escalate the addictions suffered by the population-they’re just too out of touch. Improving living conditions would be a start, imo.

Comments are closed.