Synthetic Drug use and importation under the spotlight (7 June 2013)

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Published on: July 17, 2014

With the death of Henry Kwan on 5 June 2013 in Sydney there has been calls for synthetic drugs to be banned. Of course, it’s not as easy as that. The current scheme, in WA, bans substances according to the Misuse of Drugs Act. The usual course is to list the prohibited substances such as Cannabis, Methylamphetamine, Cocaine, Heroin and MDMA to name some well known drugs. WA is also subject to Commonwealth laws and this caters to those that cross Federal boundaries such as importing a synthetic canabanoid from overseas.

The problem is, what constitutes a prohibited drug? It’s not that easy to ban a particular drug as e.g. synthetic canabanoids have a specific molecular structure and when that drug is banned normally a derivative is made with a similar molecular structure. The outcome is the same, but it is no longer on the ‘prohibited list’ of substances. An example of a well known synthetic being banned after adverse media attention was Kronic.

It is not possible to ban ‘all synthetic drugs’ as there are obviously many drugs available as pharmaceutical use, recreational use, sports, etc. The other alternative is an ‘authorised list’ of drugs with everything else in essence banned which would require a massive amount of funding to test and verifty every product that is potentially sold or imported to Australia.

While Mr Kwan’s death is unfortunate it appears the supplier of the substance has been charged with providing a prohibited drug which means the drug was a prohibited substance (assuming Police have confirmed the substance was on the prohibited list in NSW). This is of concern to me as, assuming this is correct, then the ‘renewed calls’ for banning of ‘synthetic drugs’ is simply a media beat up yet again because the drug itself was already ‘banned’. It is akin to someone overdosing on heroin and there be renewed calls for heroin to be banned…it already is.

The focus then should be on control of trafficking of illicit substances as is currently the case.

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