Opinion – John Ryan
In 2002, the Government made Fantasy or GHB and GBL a class B drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act. Its use was widespread in New Zealand. Popularly known as the Date Rape drug, a term hyped by the Media, it was widely used by body-builders as well.
Government Double Standard on Fantasy Policy
by John Ryan
October 9, 2011
In 2002, the Government made Fantasy or GHB and GBL a class B drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act. Its use was widespread in New Zealand. Popularly known as the Date Rape drug, a term hyped by the Media, it was widely used by body-builders as well. In making the law the Government made no commitment to treat those who had been using the drug when it was perfectly legal. As with many drugs, including alcohol and tobacco, it is addictive. Within a year the police set about prosecuting these addicted people who were still bringing in the drug.
This has resulted in numerous prosecutions, the most notable being bodybuilder Justin Rys, a former Mr New Zealand. As a first offence, Rys received a 9 year jail sentence later reduced to 7 years on appeal, but none the less a sentence usually reserved for the most serious criminal offenders who rape and commit violent acts. Manslaughter often gets lower sentences and if you are a white collar criminal, a slap with a wet bus ticket is all you get. Just see the sentence dispensed to Bridgecorp director, Bruce Davidson, whose finance company lost $460 million, causing grief and inter-generational harm to untold Ma and Pa investors.
However, it seems that over the 9 years Fantasy has been banned, it has been brought into the country in innocuous products such as EasyFlow Nail Tip Blender, used by numerous nail technicians nationally. The Customs Department claims you can bring it in if you have a permit. The Health Department claims it has never been asked or given a permit for this product. So why is it being allowed into the country? However, when Justin Rys recently brought this product into the country, he was arrested and is currently awaiting sentencing. No other importer of this product has been arrested or charged.
Perhaps more disturbing is the GBH and GBL are present in non trivial amounts in products consumed daily by all New Zealanders. For example, in red wine, meat and in some cigarettes.
GHB is also used medically to treat the sleep disorder narcolepsy.
This is disturbing in that the Misuse of Drugs Act is very specific about Fantasy stating d) any substance, preparation, or mixture containing any proportion of GHB or any substance referred to in any of paragraphs (a) to (c). Schedule 2 Part 1 clause 6: added, on 31 May 2002, by clause 3(1) of the Misuse of Drugs (Classification of Fantasy) Order 2001 (SR 2001/383).
This means any person using or consuming products containing GHB or GBL are breaking the law. Technically red wines containing GHB are a Class B drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act.
However interestingly, GHB is also found naturally in the human body as a degradation product of the neurotransmitter, gamma-aminobutyric acid.
So how bad is Fantasy really, a product produced naturally by our bodies and consumed virtually by all of us on a regular basis?
A June 2011 report by the Global Commission on Drugs Policy which had international notables such as Kofi Annan, Richard Branson and George Shultz as members provided evidence of the effectiveness of various drug policies globally. It makes interesting if not depressing reading. They presented a table published by The Lancet in 2007, by a team of scientists who ranked a range of psychoactive drugs according to the actual and potential harms they could cause to society. Of the 17 Drugs rated, heroin was first, alcohol 4th, tobacco 8th and GHB 5th.
This ordering is interesting and raises serious questions as to the basis on which GHB has been rated a class B drug in New Zealand, and the competency of our drug rating advisory committees. This is also evident in the recent debate about cannabis alternatives. The Government’s hypocrisy in criminalising those selling and using these products, when the harm to society caused by the well established old favourites of tobacco and alcohol are let off scot free.
This brings me back to the fate of Justin Rys, currently before the courts. He has never been convicted for any other offences except those related to Fantasy. He has not been convicted of theft, or violence, rape or manslaughter yet he has received a sentence more associated with these offences. The Government and justice system has spent over a million dollars on somebody who, by any reasoned and independent analysis, has done no more harm to society then a smoker or drinker. Secondly in creating a law for these products, there needs to be as much effort and resources put into addressing any addictions they may have caused, as into the justice system to stop their use.
Perhaps Don Brash is right. It’s time to review New Zealand’s double standard on drug policy.