OPINION: This week my home town hosted a hanging party. Not a literal one, but a gathering designed to harry and harass dealers, and make them see the error of their ways.
The protest was led by electioneering councillors Philippa Baker-Hogan and Allan Anderson and veteran Maori activist Ken Mair. Baker-Hogan even threatened to run the "drug dealers" out of town, if they didn't stop selling immediately. Anything it takes, she said.
Sounds great and gutsy, doesn't it? A community targeting some dope dealer to make the city - and particularly its teens - that bit safer.
Yeah, except the persons and business targeted weren't gang-related nor were they among the other meth/cannabis sellers around town. Indeed, the protesters weren't trying to stop the sale of P or weed at all.
They were seeking to intimidate a perfectly respectable businesswoman conducting her perfectly responsible business of selling a legal product. She sells party pills and is so licensed under the Psychoactive Drugs Act.
Despite glowing international praise, from academics and influential editorial writers, most New Zealanders remain troubled that we've added another mind-altering substance to our list.
Because we are already a druggie culture. Quite apart from our unenviable reputation as binge drinkers, we are among the biggest users of recreational drugs on the planet. There's just something about living in God's Own that deeply troubles us. We need to travel, often, and those trips come comparatively cheap.
Of course, the Whanganui action is silly. Councillors threatening shop owners with boycott, shunning and exile - for having a different and legal perspective - is just moral fascism.
It's also wholly misdirected. The Government has legalised and licensed the sale of psychoactive substances. If there are villains in this drama, then they reside in Parliament.
Second, they equate party pills with evil P and illegal cannabis.
The law doesn't make that distinction. The Ministry of Health's advice is that although party pills are potentially harmful, especially if used improperly, they don't automatically turn you into a psycho. That's alcohol's job - as police officers and emergency medical teams will attest.
The Psychoactive Drugs Act is not what Kiwis wanted when this issue was decided by Parliament. They presumed prohibition would follow, but government politicians were persuaded by bureaucrats that making party pills illegal would only add to the financial coffers of the gangs.
Using that logic, one might as well legalise and license cannabis as well. And P.
So one can have some sympathy with the provinces seeking to apply some pressure to peddlers. Even if the threats border on the criminal. Although if they cared to ask their local district health board as to the greatest health threats, the answer would more likely be McDonald's and Liquor King.
Indeed, it's ironic that these products are expressly termed "legal highs". The very name assures licensed sellers of the law's protection.
And there's good money in them. Manufacturers offer retailers a sizeable margin and for some that's the difference between being in business and not.
Which is why the Whanganui mob might like to walk farther down the street to their local MP's offices. Because that's where the real problem lies.
- © Fairfax NZ News