Pubdate: Sat, 19 May 2001
Source: Otago Daily Times (New Zealand)
Copyright: Allied Press Limited, 2001
Author: F. N. Fastier


JOHN CAYGILL claims (10.5.01) "prohibition worked very well for New 
Zealand in regard to non-medical opiate drug use for a large part of 
the 20th century". This is open to question. Although there had been 
open slather previously, it was not public alarm about the effects of 
opiates that led to the Opium Act 1908, but international pressure 
directed against smuggling. Opium could be lawfully purchased and 
smoked in New Zealand up to 1910. Yet this situation caused little 
drug abuse. During the 1930s there were thought to be only about 50 
regular users of opiates, but this estimate had to be revised when, 
as a result of illicit supplies being cut off by the closing of 
shipping lanes during World War 2, it was found that in Auckland 
alone there were at least 120 opium addicts. Clearly most of these 
persons had done nothing to draw attention to their habit so long as 
they had a dependable supply.

In some countries it is now widely realised that attempts to enforce 
the complete prohibition of heroin and other opiates give rise to far 
worse troubles than does a more tolerant policy. Thus when a 
nationwide referendum was held in 1997 to decide whether Switzerland 
should reject the present distribution of heroin under government 
supervision, the "no" vote was 70.6%.

John Caygill is mistaken in claiming that I advocate "the 
unrestricted adult use of all mind-altering substances". In fact, I 
strongly support the use of legal measures to back up other sanctions 
against drug-induced misbehaviour that harms or threatens harm to 
others. Some of the restrictions that I have proposed in my "Drugs 
and the Law in New Zealand" and elsewhere would involve a hardening 
in our attitude towards the misuse of drugs. That is partly because I 
believe that the emphasis should be on drug effects as distinct from 
particular drugs.

Thus I see no need for the police to stop a quiet pot party, but a 
great need to stop a drunken hooley and charge the participants.

F.N. Fastier, Roslyn
- ---
MAP posted-by: Josh Sutcliffe