Misuse of Drugs (Classification of BZP) Amendment Bill

Friday 14 March 2008, 9:42AM
By Hone Harawira
1610 views , 3 comments

Well, well, well, Mr Speaker, look what’s gone and popped its ugly head up again in our august House of Hypocrisy, our Parliament of Pretence, our very own Den of Double Standards.

Why, it’s none other than the “Misuse of Drugs (Classification of BZP) Amendment Bill”,

known in some circles as “Jim Anderton’s I’m dull and boring, and if I can’t be happy, then neither can you be happy BILL”,

and in other circles as the “They ain’t killing anyone but let’s ban party pills because we’re not getting any money off it, but let’s allow alcohol and cigarettes to continue to be legal, because although they’re killing our kids by the thousands every year, we get heaps of money off them through taxation BILL”.

Mr Speaker, one hundred years ago Sir Maui Pomare said:

“Our effort will be in the direction of the eradication of all things which ensure the demoralisation and decay of the Maori – drunkenness, smoking, gambling, sanitation, diseases of animals – all come within the scope of the new crusade.

In a word, we seek the regeneration of the Maori, and unless we effect that, our race is doomed. We will do it, we must”.

Mr Speaker, that crusade, that statement of intent, is a crusade that the Maori Party is also dedicated to, and I repeat again the words … We seek the regeneration of the Maori, and unless we effect that, our race is doomed”.

We too reject the way in which alcohol, tobacco and gambling are killing our people, because the research is done, and the facts are clear - alcohol, tobacco and gambling are demoralising our people and killing our families.

And that’s the difference between those addictions and party pills – forests have been cut down to detail the evidence, the data and the research on the death and destruction and family mayhem caused by alcohol, tobacco and gambling.

But BZP and party pills - nah mate, not even. Nowhere near enough evidence has been produced to justify this draconian ban on party pills, and nowhere near enough thought has been given to alternative ways of handling them.

Mr Speaker, this Bill aims to make it illegal to possess, use, sell, supply, import, export or manufacture BZP, even though there is no evidence that party pills kill and maim thousands of New Zealanders every year, the way that alcohol and tobacco does.

So to get a bit more background, I looked over a paper written by my whanaunga, Dr Lance O’Sullivan, from Ngati Hau, currently employed at Te Hau Ora o Te Hiku o Te Ika, the first accredited Maori Health Provider in the country.

He talked about seeing the impact of alcohol abuse on whanau; the domestic violence, the unwanted pregnancies, the broken families, the fatal driving accidents, the young men and women with heart and liver disease, and the depression affecting the older generations – the day to day reality of a legal but lethal drug that this legislature has allowed to ravage our communities for more than a hundred years.

Hell – even our tupuna thought so badly of the stuff that they called it waipiro – quite literally – stinking, rotting water.

And Dr O’Sullivan doesn’t need to write another paper for us to know that tobacco is doing even more damage than alcohol.

Mr Speaker, our caucus is new, but already we have built up a good rep in the campaigns against tobacco and ‘P’, and the destructive effects of alcohol and gambling in Maori communities. We have come from, and we continue to live within those very communities, and we know what we’re talking about when we talk about the effects of alcohol, tobacco, and gambling.

And we’d laugh at the ridiculous efforts being given to banning party pills, except we’re still crying at the lack of attention being given to the addictions that are still killing thousands of New Zealanders every year.

Mr Speaker, let me again be clear – the Maori Party is opposed to harmful drugs, including alcohol and tobacco, and we are equally committed to stopping substance abuse.

But just ‘cause it’s election year doesn’t mean we should pander to prejudice. Let’s drop the scaremongering and let’s get to the facts.

Following on from a 2007 Risk Assessment Report by the Scientific Committee of the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, on the risks of BZP, last week the Centre called on member states to take measures, “appropriate to the relatively low risks of the substance”.

Those eight member states – Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Greece, Italy, Lithuania, Malta and Sweden – already regulate BZP under appropriate legislation.

Contrast that with some of these other statistics on death:

Tobacco smoking kills more than 4,600 New Zealanders every year;
By 2020, tobacco will kill ten million people every year, worldwide; that’s one person every 8 seconds;
30% of young smokers will eventually be killed by tobacco; and
Tobacco will kill more people than the combined deaths from alcohol, drugs, murder, suicide, road crashes, air crashes, poisoning, drowning, fires, falls, lightning and electrocution.

The Victoria University Students Association, members of which would be prime users of party pills, supports increased regulation and control of manufacturers of party pills, who have targeted the student body through commercial marketing and on-campus promotion of their products as ‘energy supplements’, with ‘medicinal properties’ and ‘life-enhancing effects’, or the most bizarre claim of all – that their pills are ‘replacement brain-fuel’.

The Students Association says that the industry is the one that should be targeted, not the users, and that reasonable standards should be imposed on manufacture, distribution, labelling and advertising of party pills.

And yet for all the facts, it would appear that National and Labour are committed to this ban on party pills.

Mr Speaker, the facts we have gathered reinforce the Maori Party view expressed in the minority report to the select committee commentary, that a strictly enforced, strongly regulated regime, with tighter regulations, health warning labels, controlled access, and quality and quantity controls, is a far better first step than prohibition.

Mr Speaker, the Maori Party remains staunchly opposed to this Bill; and passionately in support of the call to seek the regeneration of our whanau, hapu and iwi through dedicated efforts to restoring our health and wellbeing.