The Eros Association are in favour of evidence informed policy to tackle Novel Psychoactive Substances (NPS). We recommend that further investigation into the New Zealand model is conducted and a Psychoactive Substances Regulatory Authority be set up in Australia.
There has been a story floating around recently on the death of a young west coast American man named Connor Eckhardt. We extend our sympathies to the family of Connor and hope that the circumstances surrounding Connor’s death can be revealed in order to avoid this kind of tragedy in the future.
The Daily Pilot, a tabloid newspaper on the west coast of the U.S. Appears to be the first media outlet to publish the story. The story doesn’t make clear any of the details on the circumstances surrounding Connor’s death, instead the details surrounding his death are obfuscated in favour of an emotive campaign against all synthetic cannabinoid substances, with the suggestion that he, “Died after ONE HIT of synthetic marijuana.”
It is tragic that this young man died, but the circumstances surrounding his death are vital information if we are to learn anything from this. If he had taken a synthetic cannabinoid, then knowing which one he took and what other substances (if any) were in his system at the time are vital details. I have sent an email to the U.S. coroner to try and get some toxicology but so far have not heard from them. I have also contacted the moderators of the Facebook group dedicated to Connor’s death who said that several toxicology reports came back clean.
Spice and K2 are two different products and have not been sold in Australia for years. In 2013, there were reports of opioid analogues being sprayed onto herbal mixes and sold in a similar way to the ‘synthetic cannabis’ type substances. In The Daily Pilot story of Connor’s death, it was noted that he had struggled with opiate dependency previously and had been through rehab recently. Connor was more troubled than the, “One puff and he died” hyperbolic version of the tale.
News website MamaMia published a story on Connor’s death with comments from Professor Jan Copeland, Director of the National Cannabis Prevention and Intervention Centre (NCPIC). MamaMia said that, “Professor Copeland says it is not supposed to be sold over the counter anymore, but it is.”
The reason why products are still sold over the counter is not because they are illegal and shops are doing the wrong thing – it’s because of arbitrary, broad and difficult to enforce laws that aren’t worth the paper they’re written on. The broad legislation Professor Copeland talks about has seen no prosecutions and only exists in several Australian states, each state with a slightly different version.
MamaMia also says that, “Professor Copeland said that these products can lead to psychosis, heart failure, kidney damage and tragically, death,” citing the death of Connor Eckhardt as an example of this. We should expect more of our government funded organisations.
There are hundreds of synthetic cannabinoids around today. Some of the synthetic cannabinoids will bind with the endocannabinoid receptors more-so than the phytocannabinoids (naturally occurring) in cannabis. Some of the synthetic cannabinoids MAY BE dangerous and this is exactly why the market needs to be regulated, rather than the poor attempts at wide-reaching prohibition that we currently get. Over the past three years, Australian states and territories have introduced over 30 amendments to drug legislation, all with the suggestion that they would stop the trade.
To put things into perspective, last year there were over 200,000 synthetic cannabis smokers in Australia (NDSHS 2013) and very, very few reported incidents. Most of the health incidents people have reported with these products are mild to severe anxiety issues, but few people report this. Those who do have this sort of experience are generally put off trying them again. Many others report on enjoying these products for a variety of reasons, including pain relief, relaxation and enjoyment.
The law can’t ban everything that is ‘psychoactive’ because psychoactivity is one of those strange phenomena of the human mind that we haven’t yet unlocked. Many foods and drugs create alterations in consciousness and sometimes, merely the suggestion that something can have a psychoactive effect is enough to create it. Placebo research shows us this time and time again.
The supporters of prohibition who repetitively try amending drug controls, despite their contradictory effect on the market and people’s health must wear the blame for this unregulated situation. Drug control legislators are locked into a state of perseveration as they repetitively write new Bills based on the failed methods of the past and continue to not achieve results.
The Eros Association supports a market for low-risk psychoactive substances that have been tested for safety. This is based off the New Zealand Psychoactive Substances Act, a piece of legislation that breaks free from the cycle of prohibition, allowing for a regulated, low-risk industry to exist.