Tuesday 27 August 2013

National drug policy summit

A few assorted observations from today's National Drug Policy Summit in Wellington:
  1. Ross Bell and his team pulled together a reasonably diverse group. So it's fun.
  2. As with many NZ conferences, and especially those with a policy focus or those addressing issues of interest to Maori, we broke unexpectedly (to me) into song. There were lyrics up on the projector, but I sure didn't know the tune.
  3. I suspect that it is impossible for policy conferences addressing issues of ethnic or economic decile correlates to avoid spending 30-60 minutes finding a balance between noting how bad the current state of the world is for a disadvantaged group and how we don't want to problematise a disadvantaged group by pointing them out, presenting them as homogeneous, and so on. There should be a single-paragraph boilerplate that covers this for most policy issues. I wish it would be universally adopted.
  4. Doug Sellman sought to clarify at the outset whether drugs like sugar were to be ruled out of the discussions.
Follow the hashtag #drugpol13 for further updates. I've been tweeting there a bit. The objective to is hash out some consensus document that might improve policy. I want to know whether their vision of harm reduction includes harm imposed on substance users from restrictions on their access. We'll see.


  1. It seems nuts to me that any conversation around harm minimisation wouldn't include a robust investigation into the harms caused by prohibition itself. And if the harms introduced by a prohibition model outweigh those of the use of a substance itself, one would hope that a strong recommendation to cease criminalising users would be forthcoming. But I guess the Sellmans of this world have difficulty with the concept of prohibition = harm.

  2. Fortunately, that's entirely wrong. Sellman is no fan of drug prohibition either, though he does want much harsher controls on alcohol than we currently have. And the conference came up with something weighted heavily away from prohibition approaches.

  3. For once I'm truly gratified to be wrong. I had picked Sellman to be a hard core prohibitionist; he certainly comes across to me as being something of a moral crusader, and the two often go hand in hand.
    I assume you'll be blogging a summary of your conference experience at some stage? Would be keen to read about it, it sounds like it was an interesting and diverse mix of people.