Worried parent pickets legal high shop

A policeman talks to Calvin Hooper about his protest in Dunedin yesterday against synthetic cannabis. Photo by Stephen Jaquiery.
A policeman talks to Calvin Hooper about his protest in Dunedin yesterday against synthetic cannabis. Photo by Stephen Jaquiery.
A concerned parent picketing outside a store which sells Dunedin synthetic cannabis sparked a heated debate yesterday.

Farmer Calvin Hooper, of Blackhead, said he picketed outside Cosmic Corner in George St yesterday because his adult child was admitted to Wakari Hospital on Saturday after smoking the synthetic cannabis Tai High.

''Our child has the tendency to try something once and doesn't know how to stop.''

He asked the ODT not to publish his child's gender and age to protect his child, who wanted to stop smoking synthetic cannabis but was unable to.

The child had negative reactions after smoking synthetic cannabis, such K2 and Chronic, and had been admitted to Wakari Hospital before.

Mr Hooper wanted all synthetic cannabis to be banned and for politicians to act immediately.

Yesterday, he protested using an amplified microphone and holding a ''Stop all legal highs, they are killing our kids. Stop now'' sign.

A policeman told him he could continue his protest as long as he did not obstruct the footpath, or access to the store.

Mr Hooper said he would continue his protest throughout the week.

As he protested yesterday, a 22-year-old University of Otago student, of Auckland, who did not want to be named, said if someone had a negative reaction from smoking synthetic cannabis, the blame should lie with the smoker rather than the store that sold it, and Mr Hooper was trying to shift the blame to the store.

The student said banning the sale of synthetic cannabis would not protect those people who could not protect themselves.

A group of three women passing disagreed with the student and shook Mr Hooper's hand in support.

''A lot of parents will wholeheartedly agree with what he is doing,'' a woman said.

Cosmic Corner founder Mark Carswell, who is overseas, did not respond to emails yesterday.

Round in circles

This argument is going around in circles - apples, oranges, like with like. This way of looking at this problem is nothing more than a cop-out with people expecting someone else to always lookout for our safety and wellbeing.

Unfortunately we as a society have adopted the use of the word drugs for all that is perceived to be bad and illegal - for instance drugs and alcohol are both oranges and if this important fact is often overlooked, there can be no way forward, and it’s painfully obvious this problem is above the laws ability to change social attitudes to the use of drugs in general.

The world we live in applauds the makers of wine, beer and spirits and we have integrated these products into our everyday lives, yet we are all well aware of the collateral damage caused through the misuse of this drug. Yet is anyone really advocating that prohibition and the use of police powers would be an easy fix for that problem? While I personally don’t think the synthetic drug industries model is working at this time and is fraught with many dangers for its users, the spirit of the law is sound and a very real attempt to make the producers of these products accountable for the safety of users keeping in mind that these laws aren’t fully implemented yet.

I would also point out that real herbal cannabis has a safety profile that history has shown to be much safer than that of synthetics and alcohol and that there would be no synthetic industry if we were to adopt a sensible approach to herbal cannabis use. This a fact, and while there will be those who disagree with this statement, with well-meaning people often stating we don’t need another drug on our streets, I say wake up and smell the coffee. It's here now and has been since Adam was a cowboy, with an industry run by so-called criminals doing a better and safer job of it than our elected representatives.

Apples and oranges

What are the long term effects of synthetic cannabis? It's certainly nothing like natural cannabis (as contestable as that remains) and it's only been in the mix within the last decade so frankly it's far too early to tell. Nor has enough research been done. Sure, tobacco and alcohol are incredibly socially and physically damaging, but drawing correlations with synthetic dope is absurd.

As another commentator stated, if you don't work in community services dealing, with this on the daily, I suggest you stop seemingly advocating this **** relative to alcohol and tobacco...at least they know what they're dealing with there.

This problem is real and vast. And can you even begin to imagine the underreporting that goes with it...the calibre of a lot of people wanting to get a 'legal' buzz (e.g. Individuals in employment), and have harrowing experiences, are hardly likely to ever share their accounts.

(Habit forming) is mind altering

Nicotine, a highly addictive (habit-forming) substance found in cigarettes. Nicotine is a stimulant which increases the heart rate, causes the blood vessels to narrow, and makes the heart work harder. Is tobacco mind-altering? The answer is yes, not mind-altering in the sense that it gets you high but tobacco causes mood changes, so enough said.

Alcohol is a depressant drug. When a person drinks alcohol, it is absorbed directly into the bloodstream from the stomach and intestines. Drinking alcohol can cause:
- Drunkenness
- Loss of co-ordination (balance)
- Increase in violence (destructive acts)
- Inability to learn and remember
- Changes in personality
- Increase in accidents
- Trouble with other people
- Use of alcohol can lead to drug dependency or addiction (habit-forming), disease, and death.

So in summary how can you possibly say neither of these drugs isn’t mind altering?

Tobacco is extremely addictive

Nicotine is a stimulant with a very high psychological addiction rating, higher than amphetamines and cocaine.

Alcohol is classified as a sedative and hypnotic which has a physical addiction mild to severe and physiological addiction of severe.  So severe that abrupt withdrawal can kill.

But they are legal.

Compare like with like

Let's get a couple of things really clear. You cannot compare an immediate mind-altering and addictive drug with something that is not that. In other words, tobacco is not mind-altering - no matter how much or for how long you smoke.  It does not turn change people's personalities, it doesn't make them violent or unable to control their behaviour.  Yes it is addictive.  I smoked for 20 years and have been smoke-free for 10 so I can assure you I'm speaking from experience.

Secondly, alcohol, whilst has certainly a lot to answer for, is not immediately mind-altering.  Everyone can have 1 drink (perhaps 2) and not be changed.  This is a fact.  It is proven.  Whilst it is addictive for some, most do not become addicted.

So if we are going to say "yeah but what about ...... or ...... " let's make sure we are comparing things that are the same.  So let's!  Compare them to heroin, (immediately mind-altering, lethal and addictive) crack (immediately mind altering, causing aggression, addictive, and lethal) I'm sure you can come up with more to add to the list. [Abridged]


Serious doubts

Blackbird, your story is pretty fantastical!    

Your entire workplace did not turn to legal highs.  Legal highs are not harder to detect.  Actually a workplace can decide that you are unfit for work and the substance doesn't have to be illegal.  Alcohol is legal but if there is some in your bloodstream your workplace can send you home.  It seems you need to do some more research rather than listening to popular myths to justify your habits.

You have obviously not seen the misery that substances can cause, and your blanket statements show a lack of awareness of what you are doing.  I would caution you in your dabbling.... you could be the next victim of these walking timebombs.

What would you say is a "successful use of these substances"?  Mr Hooper's son is not clearly a horror story, it is a very common story.  Do some research, you will hear any agency involved with people can give you daily "horror stories"

This is not a step forward, New Zealand is as a country and therefore it's citizens are - at times - very naive.   I would challenge you to do some impirical data collection on the relationship between  crime and legal highs, your comments are just guesses with no basis at all.  



Legal highs give users rights

One factor in the rise of synthetic drugs is the rise of workplace drug testing. The boss in my workplace was determined to push through random testing for drugs (I work in an office) and everybody there who did nothing more than smoke a joint in the weekends switched to synthetics the moment random testing was declared. Legal highs are harder to detect and, even if they are picked up, the boss cannot hold the fact you broke the law over you. That makes a big difference at a disciplinary hearing.

I don't support people turning up to work, driving or doing anything harmful under the influence. What I do support is the rights of people to live their lives outside of work time without the boss or the state following them home to tell them how to live their lives. The moment illegal drugs are the subject, workers' rights go out the window. Legal highs give responsible drug users a chance to fight back.

We could talk about any change in society and there will be horror stories about somebody somewhere who had a problem. It could be casinos, lotto, alcohol, prostitution etc. All these things have the potential to cause harm, and all of them have caused harm to somebody. Should we just hit the banned button every time something bad happens?

I see in the media today the police have announced our lowest crime rate in thirty years. I wonder how much money legal highs have taken off gangs and the effect of that? Legal highs also mean there are a lot of people who have made the switch and are therefore no longer criminals. A lot of commentators are wondering why the crime rate is so low. I wonder if legal highs might deserve some credit. 

Mr. Hooper's son has had a very bad experience. However, this is clearly a horror story and  is not representative of the many people who successfully use these substances without serious issues. I hope regulation in this country works. A return to prohibition would be a step backwards.

Alcohol and tobacco

I can sympathize wholeheartedly with Mr Hooper’s situation and wish all the best for his family at this difficult time. However, if we were all to start picketing in an attempt to right all societal wrongs, the first port of call should be alcohol outlets as they are the front line source of more suffering, deaths and harm, second only to the sale of tobacco.

Please don’t think that I condone the sale of these synthetic products in any way, shape or form, but from the evidence of the millions of units having been all ready sold, alcohol and tobacco still poses a much higher risk to many of its users and going by the hard evidence of all three of these drugs show much higher risk profile than the responsible use of herbal cannabis.

In summary, the shops selling these synthetic drugs are R18 and have jumped through hoops to fit into the legal framework set out by government legislation surrounding this industry. Shops selling these products aren’t even allowed to sell a can of drink on the same premises, which was done to remove it from shops selling food items. This in stark contrast to supermarkets in relation to the sale of legal drugs and is worlds apart from all manner of possible illegal drug sales by gangs, which in Dunedin can be positioned beside two entrances of a primary school, something no legal outlet could get away with.

Tobacco and alcohol are worse

Tobacco and alcohol are also legal and considerably worse; they cause more damage and deaths.  Consider banning these first; anything else is just being hypocritical.

I congratulate this parent

I congratulate this parent who is trying to do something. I too have an adult child who became addicted to these dangerous so called legal drugs .

When oh when is someone going to take notice and take these mind and life destroying drugs off the shelves?  There are so many young people addicted to these because they are cheap and legal ... The word legal makes them think they are safe, which they are not.

Take a look at costs to mental health services, and the police and court news -  so much is connected to these legal drugs.

Speaking as a parent I have seen my own son turn into a violent, stealing family destroying monster . The places that are selling this have no concerns other than their own profit and I say to them I hope it never affects someone you care about, because it is heartbreaking.  



As alcohol is responsible for between 600 and 800 deaths in New Zealand each year (his claims that synthetic cannabis is in fact killing our kids is news to me... but I admit I may have missed those headlines), I can only imagine his next stop should be to protest outside the liquor store across the road from Cosmic Corner.

Not saying that legal highs are great, but alcohol is far worse and no-one seems to care about that...

Unnatural evil

I also have a friend who is unable to stop smoking synthetic pot. He smokes morning, noon and night, and has had issues at work with his and fellow workmates addiction to this product slipping into the work day causing all sorts of fuss. These products are an evil such as natural pot never, despite the way it was portrayed. 

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