Editorial: Drug no good for anyone

CLAIRE ALLISON
Last updated 05:00 07/04/2014

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OPINION: Is there anyone, I wonder, who thinks that as a society we would somehow be worse off if we did not have legal highs?

Do these "substances" - for want of a better word - do anyone any good? Or is the only benefit the fact that users won't be arrested and charged for possessing or using them?

Two stories this weekend involved legal highs.

Both were frightening.

In Christchurch, our sister newspaper, The Press, featured an interview with 17-year-old Jesse Murray, who has been using synthetic cannabis for three years.

He joined a protest in Christchurch calling for a nationwide ban on legal highs. It made a change from his usual life of sleeping rough, begging for money to buy highs, and coughing blood from his shredded stomach lining into a tissue.

And in Timaru, police were called to arrest a 27-year-old man after he headbutted his way through the wall into an adjoining flat. The occupant of that flat was, understandably, terrified.

Acting Sergeant Marcus Dominey said it was fairly common for police to deal with people affected by legal highs but he admitted he had never seen anyone behave to that extent before.

Experts have said side-effects of synthetic cannabis include agitation, confusion, paranoia, seizures and violent behaviour. These symptoms can last for days, or even months.

Around New Zealand, communities have marched, campaigned and protested about legal highs.

Users and their families have shared their frightening experiences with the drugs.

In July, the Government introduced the Psychoactive Substances Act. That made it illegal for dairies, liquor outlets and supermarkets to sell the products, and also put certain criteria on other retailers to get an interim licence to research, manufacture or sell. Right now, 42 brands of synthetic cannabis have interim approval.

But as this weekend's stories have shown, synthetic highs continue to hurt both the people who use them and the people around them.

Some will argue that another legal drug - alcohol - can affect people just as badly, that it is behind much of the criminal offending - particularly violent offending - that we see in our community.

That is true. But that is not a reason to just accept the introduction of yet another drug into our society that has already been shown to have an appalling effect on some of its users, their families and beyond.

We need to keep sending the message to the lawmakers that we do not want this drug anywhere near our children or in our community.

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- The Timaru Herald

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