A special report in New Scientist, ‘High as Kiwi‘, highlights the recent changes in New Zealand’s legislative approach to emerging psychoactive substances. Although the article is paywalled, the magazine’s freely available editorial speculates on how New Zealand’s new drug policies could play out.
An excerpt (read in full here):
Will NZ drug reform bring high times or a comedown?
FOR many years, opponents of drug prohibition have called loudly for radical reform, secure in the expectation that their ideas would remain pie in the sky. Now, though, those open to reform – including this magazine – are facing what you might call a “Liberal Democrat moment”. Just as the UK’s third political party found itself suddenly thrust into government in 2010 after decades on the fringes, reformers are about to find out how their ideas fare in the real world.
Fed up with the endless game of cat and mouse between drug designers and the law, New Zealand has decided to set up a regulated market for new recreational drugs. Within weeks, New Zealanders will be living in a society not dissimilar to the anti-prohibitionist ideal, with all kinds of psychoactive substances legally available, quality-controlled and out of the hands of criminal gangs (see “High as a Kiwi: Inside the nation saying yes to drugs“).
The stakes are high. If New Zealand’s experiment succeeds, the already crumbling case for prohibition will be further weakened. Governments around the world are watching this and other attempts at legalisation and decriminalisation. They seem increasingly willing to look at alternatives to prohibition – especially if they bring in new tax revenues.
If it fails, however, the case for reform will lie in ruins. And there is plenty of room for failure. One major unknown is whether drug consumption will rise, and if so, what will happen to New Zealand society. Another is the problem of drug combinations. People often take more than one substance at a time: when the market is flooded with numerous novel compounds – plus alcohol – the possibility of toxic combinations is multiplied.