An outline for drug law reform

The essence of the my drug law reform policy is a kind of licensing system, similar to a driver’s license, whereby users are allowed to purchase and consume drugs once they’ve passed a test.

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Outlaw alcohol advertising

Alcohol clearly causes a lot of harm in New Zealand, from violence, to sexual assault, to addiction.

I think it would be heavy handed to try outright stop people from drinking.

However, a low hanging fruit for improving New Zealand’s drinking culture, would be to outlaw alcohol advertising – which serves to normalise our drinking culture.

A drugs license

A new form of ID, like a driver’s license would be created.

Purchasing drugs, including tobacco and alcohol and cannabis, would each require a separate endorsement on the license. The license would be required to be presented when purchasing the drug.

Acquiring endorsements

Acquiring an endorsement would require sitting a test that demonstrates that the user is aware of the risks and potential harms of the drug they are seeking endorsement for.

The risks that awareness is being tested for would be fact based.

The test might be administered by a doctor.

For example, the tobacco endorsement test might involve test that the user is aware that:

  • Tobacco has a high addiction potential
  • The yearly cost of a regular cigarette habit
  • The causal relationship between cigarette smoking and illness

The test for for alcohol endorsement might involve testing that the user is aware that:

Tests for cannabis are in my impression a little hard to find risks to tests for. Unlike alcohol and tobacco and alcohol, the risks of cannabis aren’t as pronounced as the relationship between cigarettes and cancer, or alcohol and car crashes.

As mentioned before – the risks awareness is being tested for, would need to be science and fact based. The New Zealand Drug Foundation provides a helpful, though not comprehensive summary of some health effects. 

You could test for awareness of things like:

  • Cannabis can cause anxiety
  • There’s the potential that cannabis exasperate symptoms for people already susceptible to mental illness.
  • The risk of psychological addiction.

Three categories of drugs

I would put drugs in three categories:

  • Recreational consumer drugs. eg. tobacco, alcohol, cannabis

    These drugs would be free for commercial sale to anyone who has the endorsement.

    The cannabis industry would like resemble the beer industry. You would have some large commercial operations, as well as craft operations.

  • Higher risk psychedelic drugs eg. MDMA (ecstacy), LSD

    These drugs would, as well as require the user to pass a test, would be prescription only. ie. everytime a user wanted to consume these drugs, they would need to ask their doctor for a prescription. This would prevent people from taking these drugs recklessly.

    An option to consider here is that psychedelics could only be administered by an authorised medical professional. What could happen is that drugs could be administered in a controlled, research manner, even if the situation was at a festival.

  • Addictive hard drugs. eg. methamphetamine, heroin

    These drugs should be treated as too dangerous to be administered freely.

    However, for people who are already addicted, their addiction should be treated as a health condition.

    Government run distribution centers that give administer the drugs, and track how much a user is using. At least that way addicts aren’t beholden to drug dealers, and the health system has a good deal of monitoring of peoples habits.

 

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Quitting is underrated.

I think there’s an often unhelpful cultural attitude that stigmatises quitting.

Quitting is seen as indicative of a bad work ethic, or laziness, or a lack of grit. Quitting is seen as worse than failure – at least someone who fails has the follow through to see the thing through to the end.

The attitude that is encouraged for facing a difficult situation is to grit up, to grin and bear it, or to be creative in finding a solution to the problem. There’s the promise that going through the hardship will more rewarding in terms of practical experience and character building, than quitting would.

There’s a fear that if one quits now, they’ll develop a habit of quitting, and quit whenever things become more difficult, or they’re put beyond their comfort zone.

I agree that there’s something to be said for persevering in the face of challenge, but only if the project as a whole is worthwhile.

When the main reason for carrying on, is the value of perseverance or avoiding being a quitter, then it’s time to quit.

The risk of continuing with something that you’re not getting value out of, is that the stress of carrying on can spill over into the rest of your life. For example, if you’re in a job that you hate, they you may be preoccupied with the job when you’re at home too. Or on the other hand, if you’re in a bad relationship, that may affect your performance at work.

I think people are most motivated when there’s a big picture goal, that they value, and they can see how what they’re doing is helping achieve that goal.

When it’s apparent that what they’re doing doesn’t achieve that big picture goal, or that the value of what they’re doing is several layers abstracted from that goal, one’s whole life can start feeling meaningless.

The danger is when there appears to be no end in sight, and the thought is ‘Even if I do my best work now, my situation is going to be the same in six months, one year’s time’.

Doing good work involves grit and discipline. It require concerted effort. If that effort is, at least in the person’s mind, not going to have any real reward, it’s reasonable to see how one might instead opt for shortcuts or immediate gratification.

I would propose a model of stress tolerances, whereby each individual has a certain ability to tolerate stress – whether that’s dealing with difficult people, learning new technologies, getting their head around logical problems, being bored, and so on.

It makes sense that people should prioritise their ability to deal with stress, to those activities that provide the most value to them. Activities that are not providing much value, should be abandoned, in an act of simplifying their life.

I’ve recently simplified my life in a few ways:

  • I broke the lease on the apartment I was renting, so I’m no longer responsible for chasing flatmates up for rent, finding new flatmates, and paying bills.
  • I found a new job, and quit my current job which I felt no sense of recognition in.
  • I quit drinking alcohol.

As a result, I feel like I’m floating. I feel much much better, and I can see the value in the things that I am doing.

I still have activities that provide stress, or warrant the application of grit.  Writing this blog for example, requires a concerted effort to sit down and write the words. Exercising requires grit to get out and start doing it. But these are both activities that I can clearly see the value of, especially in a context of a job where my career with be progressing, and living situation where I can relax.

In conclusion, my advice for people is to look at their life, and question what things are in it that are providing unnecessary stress. Remove them. After that, you can do the mindfulness and meditation tricks and deal with the things that you really value.

Letter: Legalise ecstasy to improve safety

Date published: October 1, 2015

Relates to: ‘Dr Death’ chemical found in illegal drugs sold in Wellington

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Text: 

The recent case of contaminated ecstasy pills highlights the flaws of drug prohibition and makes a case for their legalisation (Deadly chemicals found in drugs, September 28).

Consumers of legal and regulated drugs can be assured that the drug they are consuming is what is said on the packet in the dosage stated.

While drugs like ecstasy do have their dangers such as addiction, so do all drugs, including alcohol and prescription medication. Research shows MDMA (the active ingredient in ecstasy pills) to be a much safer drug than the likes of alcohol.

Alcohol routinely kills people through overdose, causes people to cause bodily harm to themselves and others, and has a high addiction potential. Even given these dangers, many of us consider alcohol to be useful drug to assist relaxing and socialising.

Similarly MDMA is considered useful to assist therapy for PTSD, relationship therapy and other mood related functions.

The main danger that ecstasy users face, is not the danger from the MDMA, but from any potential other chemicals introduced by unscrupulous dealers cutting their product with other drugs. This danger would be resolved by allowing MDMA to be sold subject to regulation like other drugs.