Pubdate: Fri, 08 Dec 2000
Source: Otago Daily Times (New Zealand)
Copyright: Allied Press Limited, 2000
Contact:  P.O. Box 181, 52-66 Lower Stuart Street, Dunedin, New Zealand
Author: F. N. Fastier


YOUR REPORT ABOUT the dangers of datura ( ODT , 29.11.00) reminded me of 
being called as an expert witness in three cases in which persons were 
charged with taking LSD. In two of these cases the accused was in a grossly 
disturbed mental state at the time of his arrest. That was not denied. What 
was claimed (and supported by other evidence) was that he had become 
intoxicated through taking datura. Each was found not guilty because datura 
was not a scheduled drug. Had the accused taken LSD, he could have been 
gaoled for several years. Now, why should his behaviour be treated as 
heinous if caused by a scheduled drug but be exonerated if caused by some 
other agent?

The Misuse of Drugs Amendment Act 2000 is a clumsy attempt to prevent such 
anomalies. As I have contended in my Drugs and the Law in New Zealand and 
elsewhere, there is a better solution. It amounts to creating the crime of 
"culpable acute intoxication". The agents liable to produce this state 
would not have to be specified in some schedule. There are precedents for 
this policy, as in the Transport Act 1962. You can be found guilty of 
driving, or attempting to drive, under the influence of a drug even if the 
drug that grossly impaired your driving ability happened to be one which 
was unknown when the Act was created. This policy would get over such 
additional difficulties as those arising from the taking of drug mixtures 
or of useful chemicals (such as those employed as intoxicants by drug 

We already employ this policy in dealing with alcohol. Its consumption by 
adults is not illegal so long as the user does not harm or threaten to harm 
others, for example through his being drunk and disorderly or drunk in 
charge of a motor vehicle. We would do well to employ it in dealing with 

F.N. Fastier, Roslyn
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