Kronic must go because it might hurt some people who think taking it is fun. A good start, but how about we deal with the real problem our nation faces?

Legislation will be brought before the House next week to prohibit all snow-related sports, Minister for Acceptable Fun Peter Dunne announced today.

The move comes after a sustained media campaign highlighting the very high rate of harm associated with such activities. ACC figures reveal that more than 13,000 injuries occurred on New Zealand's ski-fields in 2010, at a rate of about 100 a day. While most of these injuries were relatively minor, a good number were extremely serious and some even resulted in death.

"The Government has a responsibility to protect people from doing things that, while it may seem fun to them at the time, could hurt them," Mr Dunne said. "The high toll that snow sports wreck on New Zealand citizens, some of them very young, cannot be ignored any longer."

Ski industry figures have reacted to the news with horror. NZSki spokesman, Bodie "Shred" McMasters, described it as "over the top crap."

"There's tens-of-millions of dollars invested in the ski industry in New Zealand. It pumps God only knows how many dollars into our economy, what with all those Aussies who see us as a fun weekend away. So a few people fall over and break their neck every now and then - is that really a good reason to kill the golden goose?"

Mr Dunne was unmoved, however.

"Tragically, the snow abuse way of life has become entrenched in certain sectors of our society. It has become an inter-generational issue, with parents introducing their children to these so-called "sports" at a very young age.

What is more, there is significant evidence that peer pressure plays a large role in the perpetuation of snow abuse. The creation of a "snow culture", complete with distinctive clothing, vocabulary and compulsory douche bag behaviour traps participants in a downward spiral. The only way to break this cycle is through tough action."

Francis Sperling, President of Doctors for Behaving in a Responsible and Reasonable Manner, cautiously welcomed the Government's move.

"Our members have been concerned for some time at the number of injuries they see from skiing and other snow sports. We've been calling for some time for the Government to take action in this area. However, we are concerned that new snow-related sports seem to be coming on to the market constantly, and worry that any ban on existing sports will be ineffective."

While Mr Dunne conceded this was a risk, he said the legislation would provide for a response. "The Government's new law will give me the power to issue 'temporary fun prevention notices' that will impose a 12-month ban on activities that I consider a bit risky. This expedited process will enable a rapid response to any attempts to introduce new, untested and potentially lethal sporting activities to this country."

Snow-sports enthusiasts spoken to by Pundit generally were scathing of the Government's move.

Fred and Cath Chalmers, who own a sheep farm near Gore, doubted that the ban would have its intended effect. "We've got friends with a good sized slope in the back hills of their farm. If the commercial field close, we'll just take our runs there."

Frieda Sizemore, a law student at Otago, said she wouldn't really notice the change. "I don't really like skiing anyway - I just go to Queenstown for the bars. But it would be a bummer, I guess. Snowboard guys are cute."

Tom Brunner, 21, was already planning his response. "If they ban snowboarding, I'll just stick to skating and get my snow fill on X-Box. The Vancouver 2010 runs are great when you're high."

Comments (12)

by The Falcon on August 03, 2011
The Falcon

I had to laugh at the Herald's online poll yesterday. Instead of "did the government do the right thing by banning Kronic", the poll said "did the government go far enough, or should they have also banned ALL legal highs". And 81% of people said ban ban ban.

Sigh.

by on August 04, 2011
Anonymous

I put a variation on this argument to the select committee when they were considering BZP.

And while snowsports seem to be getting worse, horse-riding is the best candidate for banning. 2.2 fatalities per annum per 100,000 participants, the highest ACC claim rate, and some of the mosts expensive claims. Fishing is about half as death-y, but has far fewer ACC claims. I couldn't get participation rates for moutaineering, but seriously a dangerous way to have 'fun'.

by Andrew Geddis on August 04, 2011
Andrew Geddis

A few years back, the Otago Daily Times ran an anguished front-page headline that went something like "These Mountains are Killing my Friends", relating to a story about several recent climbing deaths in the Wanaka-Queenstown region. (Can't find online, sorry.) Strangely enough, this was not followed up with a concerted campaign to introduce tight regulations on those wishing to engage in the practice - much less an outright ban.

But one person going to A&E with a rapid heartrate after smoking too much synthetic cannabis? That's the basis for a crusade, you know.

by Frenchy on August 05, 2011
Frenchy

Awesome article Andrew, but from a different angle: We know the risks of snow sports, we know how to treat broken bones. Do you know why Kronic causes elevated heart rate? Do you know how its chemicals exacerbate my flatmate's depression? What made him addicted to it? What are its long term effects? Would you prefer he killed himself during Kronic-induced psycosis so it was sufficiently 'death-y' to ban? The least we can do is put the onus on the manufacturers to prove its safe, like medicines i.e. chemicals you're supposed to put in your body.

by Andrew Geddis on August 05, 2011
Andrew Geddis

Sam,

I should make it clear that my purpose in writing was simply to compare the moral panic that attaches to recreational drugs with the laissez faire attitude taken to "normal" or "healthy" recreational activities like skiing. Even given the undoubted risks associated with stuff like Kronic, surely they still pale in comparison to the worst-case outcome of skiing/falling off a mountain? That, I think, tells us something about the cultural (as opposed to the hard cost/benefit) factors at play in the area of drug regulation generally ... they're assumed to be "bad" and to be discouraged, so virtually any indication some people may suffer harm is sufficient to justify regulation. This is by no means an original or particularly deep insight - it's just the juxtaposition of stories in the media about the banning of Kronic and the injury toll of skiing prompted me to break out of what had been a spell of bloggers' block.

That said, personally I think a regime where the onus is on those wanting to market/sell new drugs to the public to prove safety before doing so has a lot of merit ... however, I'd again contrast this "common sense" approach to the marked resistance shown to regulation of the adventure tourism industry, where the idea that centralised rules requiring safety to be paramount is said to threaten the very nature of the industry and to infantalise participants who are capable of assessing risks for themselves.

by Frenchy on August 05, 2011
Frenchy

I completely get your point (you're being a good legal academic, and arguing for the sake of arguing) [PS that's not an insult]. I feel laissez-faireism is acceptable when a participant is able to give informed consent. The risks of the catchily named JWH-018 and JWH-073 aren't known, so people cannot make an informed decision about using them; I would suggets this is especially true in the case of the 14 year-old outside the George St Dairy who politely asked me to buy him a joint of Kronic last week.

In reply to "surely [the risks] still pale in comparison to the worst-case outcome of skiing/falling off a mountain" - Surely the worst case scenario (death) is equal, however it comes about.

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by tussock on August 06, 2011
tussock

What they want to ban is sin: that's everything that makes you feel good without having a clear benefit to society at large. What they get to ban is the sins of the minority, because democracy is the dictatorship of the majority.

...

Sam: Do you know why Kronic causes elevated heart rate?

Panic attacks do that to a person. People can get bad trips on pot if they're already a bit wiggy going in. Prescription meds don't help.

Sam: Do you know how its chemicals exacerbate my flatmate's depression?

By increasing the mind's focus on whatever comes foremost, be it food, forlorn hope, fear, or the awesomeness of fingers.

Sam: What made him addicted to it?

Dependant, not addicted. It's common in depressed people to become dependant on all sorts of rubbish, especially stuff that makes them feel worse (thus the depression, self-reinforcing negative behaviours).

Sam: What are its long term effects?

Death by aging. Pot has no accumulative toxicity, and no brain changes seen in adult users. There's rare but detectably higher rates of schitzophrenic development in persistant heavy teen users (though massively less risk than would be faced by a persistant heavy teen drinker, for instance). Not-quite-pot should do the same, the body won't much care about the new tail when the head's the active component.

by Andrew Geddis on August 06, 2011
Andrew Geddis

Sam,

I always wonder about the "informed consent" point as a basis for differentiating between permissible risks and non-permissible risks. We still don't, for example, let people take illegal drugs even where the risk of such consumption is pretty well known. And would it therefore be OK to sell Kronic, etc if it carried a bold-warning on the packet "The long-term health effects of this product are not known ... by consuming it you may suffer some form of serious psychological or physical harm." Or, why was it considered a sufficient response to the known high accident rate associated with snow sports that ACC will conduct more education on how to avoid injury, while the "obvious" response to potential (but almost certainly less serious) negative effects of synthetic cannaboids is to stop people taking them at all? If education is considered sufficient to combat and lessen the former risk of harm, why not the latter?

Point being - I don't think the claim that a 18-year old "knows" he may break his neck jumping off a mogul in and of itself means that this risk is in itself more acceptable than that he faces by smoking Kronic et al. (I'm setting aside your 14-year old example - I think it is common ground to all involved that kids this age shouldn't be taking any form of drugs ... legal or otherwise.) Rather, I think that this is just the sort of "healthy" risk that society thinks young people (and others) should be taking, compared with "bad" risks that society thinks should not be taken.

by Frenchy on August 07, 2011
Frenchy

Andrew,

Good points, I'm out of argument.

(Dr) tussock,

JWH-018 is not THC with an extra methyl group on the tail, it's a different structure which happens to act on the  cannabinoid receptors like THC - hence why they're called synthetic cannabinoids. I think you're getting confused with the idea that if you add to the tail of a banned synthetic cannabinoid it's a different substance and no longer banned. So your statement that 'not-quite-pot' should act the same, while possible, remains to be seen.

I would argue your answer "increasing the mind's focus on whatever comes foremost" is simply not correct. I know being high makes you focus on things, but not your own depression for days. There are chemicals in the brain in play here.

As to "It's common in depressed people to become dependant on all sorts of rubbish, especially stuff that makes them feel worse", agreed, depressed people are more likely to be sustance dependent. But to stuff that makes them feel worse? Really? However, I agree I should have said dependent, not addicted.

 

by kathy tuakau on August 07, 2011
kathy tuakau

surely this post is a comeon,be very careful what you propose if the government read it they might oblige you,the tobaco has got the aproval of the public,food is also in their mean little eyes,the worst drug in this country is alchacol,i notice none of your commentaries have mentioned this,surely we are allowed to take part in whatever sport we like still in our fair land.

by william blake on August 08, 2011
william blake

I can see a middle ground here. A law making it a requirement to smoke pot before skiing. I can picture the scene hundreds of gaily coloured alpine recreators standing around staring at their surroundings or attempting to attach their skis to their feet. Should work.

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