Banning party pills is just the latest clumsy and heavy-handed interference from the state that’ll ultimately be counterproductive. Unless there's an overwhelming societal consensus in favour of a ban on something, it’s highly problematic to unilaterally just outlaw something that’s disliked by the Government. After all, party pills are the fourth most widely used drug after alcohol, tobacco and cannabis. About 20% of NZers are said to use them – contributing to a $35m industry that has sold about 8m tablets. What this 20% of society puts into their bodies and how it parties should be a question of personal liberty and individual freedom. [Read more below]
Instead of banning yet another drug, we should look to the very strong case in favour of legalising all drugs. It is argued that [If drug use was decriminalised, substances could be clinically tested and people could be better informed of how to avoid dangerous concoctions.] But apart from the practical creation of ‘safer drugs’, this should simply be a case of our extending our liberty to spend our free time as we see fit. Drug use shouldn’t be a criminal activity, but an individual choice.
Benzylpiperazine (BZP) is just the latest victim of moral panics. The side effects of the pills aren’t much different to a normal alcohol-induced hangover. For more on this, see No Right Turn’s Why we shouldn’t ban party pills post, which makes the following good point:
Number of New Zealanders killed by alcohol: 1000+
Number of New Zealanders killed by tobacco: 5000 a year.
Number of New Zealanders killed by BZP: none.
The NZ Herald editorial also rather sensibly opposes the ban – see Ban makes party pill trade worse. They argue in favour of regulation rather than prohibition, which they say will make things worse: ‘a ban is based more on morality than measured thought. One thing is certain. The party pill trade is about to become more dangerous for all those involved and significantly harder to control’. This is also the opinion of the Drug Foundation. So why are the politicians so strongly in favour of a ban? Partly it is due to their addiction to banning things they don’t approve of. It's simply the continuation of their policy of attempting to control the behaviour of people who don’t want to be controlled. But as Protblog points out, ‘its a good vote winner for a scared and conservative middle class who believe BZP is responsible for the downfall of New Zealand society’. Similarly, a good article in the Press by GP Mick Ozimek argues that ‘It is the change you make when you want to be seen to be tackling a problem that has been relegated to the too-hard basket. It is the six-second sound bite you can feed to your electorate’.
Unfortunately, the scaremongering about party pills has also spread to the UK, where Nathalie Rothschild asks why a drug that has no proven serious side-effects has attracted the ire of the anti-drug lobby. See: Who’s afraid of XTC?
PS: What drug will the Government ban next? Kava?