Am I high enough yet?

I’ve been back in the City for about 3 weeks now.
The provinces were great, thanks for asking.

But I’ve been somewhat amazed by the barrage of ‘drug-driving’ messages I’ve seen since I started taking city buses again. They’re everywhere, on billboards, Adshell light-boxes in bus-stops, and the charming little leaflet I picked up in the library, hoping it might shed some light on the statements being made.

There is a website published in the leaflet, drivinghigh.org.nz, which when plugged into one’s browser merely re-directs to this Facebook page. Which looks like a functional webpage that’s been shoe-horned into a tiny FB frame. It gets worse if you click on the NZ Drug Foundation link on that page – sends you to an even more scrunched FB page. Still not a lot of facts. Or a link to the actual NZ Drug Foundation website.

So I did a little more digging. There have been other commentators already posting about this campaign, here and on NORML’s website here.

Disclosure statement: my Dad is an alcoholic, and I’m a teetotaller these days.

My personal opinion on drunk and drugged driving is informed by my experiences as a child, teenager and young adult passenger in my Dad’s car. Yes, he’s been disqualified from driving for various periods while I was growing up; once, hilariously, charged with drunk-in-charge on a bicycle. I love the man, but don’t condone that behaviour.

On to drugged driving – I think the campaign is flawed, it is conflating behaviour around class A drugs and hallucinogenics with cannabis use, and makes some statements that are pretty hard to back up.
The video campaigns seen on TV (yes, I’ve been watching advertising, to my great regret) are all faked ‘covert’ surveillance, and none of them are backed by figures for blood test results, arrests or convictions, which would surely have been used if the ad agency hadn’t just been faking footage.
God knows the cops have never been reticent about the privacy issues of defendants any time in the past four and a half years, let alone the previous decades.

There is no reference to the excellent Law Commission report published in 2011, which recommended, among other things, that decriminalisation of cannabis would free up a lot of Police time, a lot of Justice resources (both Courts and Corrections) and leave the agencies concerned free to investigate serious drug offenders. Studies taken overseas were referred to, and the common knowledge that Amsterdam is not a hotbed of crime (where cannabis is legal), neither is Portugal, or any other jurisdiction where possession of cannabis for personal use has been decriminalised.

I fear we are at the hands of yet another bone-headed, oversimplified, ad-agency driven piece of drivel that once again plays to the red-necks in the gallery, and protects the beer-barons, while being quite totally ineffective in any meaningful ‘harm-reduction’ sense.

This all comes on top of a White Flag event at Parliament on Tuesday that got somewhat swamped by the Anti-Asset Sales brigade, and the Anti-Fracking brigade. My, what a lot of grumpy people waving banners and shouting there were. NORML supporters were the most friendly and relaxed amongst the crowd. ;-)

NORML supporters near the Cenotaph, about to head up to Parliament steps

NORML supporters near the Cenotaph, about to head up to Parliament steps

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7 thoughts on “Am I high enough yet?

  1. Great post! I think the campaign is super flawed, everyone thinks its stupid and the young people I know that take lots of drugs and drive just laugh at it. Who drops Ecstasy and picks up their mum or whatever she does?

    I just spent $60 on a pill, a special occasion thing, and I’m going to use the buzz I’ve purchased to drive an old lady around? WTF?

    Terrible, terrible stuff

  2. Um, I’m hoping people realise that the tv campaign was developed the by Government’s NZ Transport Agency, and not the Drug Foundation’s.

    Our Driving High Facebook page is well backed up by evidence – it might pay to look around it and read the evidence. And this page on our main website references that evidence – http://www.drugfoundation.org.nz/drivinghigh.

    Further, if you’re interested in knowing about drug law reform there is a shit load of info on our website about that too:

    http://www.drugfoundation.org.nz/healthy-drug-law

    http://www.drugfoundation.org.nz/moda

    Cheers
    Ross Bell
    NZ Drug Foundation

  3. p.s. if the author of this post wants to take issue with the science we’ve used on our FB page, the I’d suggest they raise those points on that page. We’re more than happy to debate any points on the evidence, and you’ll see from the many discussions and debates already taking place on our page.

    And I think in doing so you’ll notice a big difference between our approach and NZTA’s – we’re more than willing to have that 2-way debate.

    And in light of the fact that there are a few inaccuracies in your post above, we would welcome a correction or clarification. If you want to challenge us on the facts, then best you get yours right too.

    Cheers again
    Ross Bell
    Executive Director
    NZ Drug Foundation

  4. The anti-drug driving campaign might seem idiotic to people who drive while wasted, but maybe it’s not aimed at them. Maybe its goal is to make it unacceptable to mainstream society. Social change is more likely to happen by convincing the average Joes and Janes than trying to educate a bunch of munters.

    I remember when drink driving was socially acceptable. That changed after these sorts of ads convinced the mainstream it was stupid. Habitual offenders didn’t see the ads and think “Christ, I’m an idiot”, but the people around began thinking “Christ, that person is an idiot”. Social ostracism can be a powerful tool.

  5. Hi Ross Bell-

    due to participation in NORML’s AGM yesterday, I’ve been offline & apologise for not responding earlier.

    My criticism of the FB page was that the info was unclear, that the page was badly designed & didn’t seem to lead anywhere. I did try to click on links, none of which led me out of FB.
    I had to google NZ Drug Foundation to find any external info on that website – which I see as a flaw of the FB page, not the NZ Drug Foundation website (which I linked to – hey, those green words are links!)

    Interesting that you defend your website’s info by saying that the messages branded with exactly the same logo, etc, produced by NZTA, were not your responsibility. I did hear of that over the weekend, but from a different perspective.
    Again, to the casual viewer of those advert’s, there is no separation between the two ‘Driving High’ branded advertising streams. There is no attribution to NZTA anywhere on any of the online of offline material I used as data for my post.

    I was also concerned about the difference between the info being presented and that presented by the Law Commission report on the Review of the Misuse of Drugs Act, which I linked to.
    I would certainly be interested in your opinion of that review, and how it relates to the position that NZTA are taking, which seems very close to current campaigns to demonise drug users in the USA.

  6. As the Drug Foundation representative notes you have mashed two quite separate campaigns together here. I suggest you read the NZTA press release: http://nzta.govt.nz/about/advertising/drug-driving/index.html that details the “drug driving: do you think its a problem?” campaign that is on Youtube (youtube.com/drugdrivingquestion), Facebook (facebook.com/drugdrivingquestion), TV, posters and a digital billboard downtown. I’m unsure why Ross notes, “And I think in doing so you’ll notice a big difference between our approach and NZTA’s – we’re more than willing to have that 2-way debate.” as the point of the NZTA campaign, as described in the press release and in the “do you think its a problem?” tagline on all adverts – is to encourage the public to discuss the issue, not to present an opinion. Incidentally the video footage features genuine reactions, and is not ‘faked’ as explained in the trailer the preceded the campaign: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_0oTIPIj3XM We’d welcome your thoughts not the issue on any of the channels above, or further on your blog. Thanks.

  7. In response to the message above from the anonymous media manager from NZTA –

    Nowhere in the ‘drug-driving’ campaign material I’ve seen did I see an NZTA logo.
    This is why people are complaining, you are appearing to be trying to do stealth opinion manipulation of the sort that is usually only the province of alarmists during election campaigns.

    Once more, I shall repeat my query – have either of the agencies, NZ Drug Foundation or NZTA, considered the recommendations of the Law Commission report?
    Or are you merely trying to continue the prosecution of the ‘War on Drugs’ that has failed in the USA for the past decade, in our country which has never had quite the same amount of drug-related crime, proportionately, as the USA has per capita.

    Seriously, a guy hopped up on P creates an armed offenders callout in Napier and it runs in the news for weeks. This would never happen in the USA, there’s just so much more crime that they have to deal with that one individual just doesn’t get much airtime.

    The whole ‘drug-driving’ campaign smacks of desperately trying to drum up attention for an issue that isn’t actually causing much of a problem; compared to the rest of the burglary stats, for instance, or the issue of corporate wankers speeding in their Mercedes all around the CBD – a daily occurrance that NZTA doesn’t seem to have much of a policy priority for. (Nor the Police, either. But then those guys are rich, so I guess they’re not gonna get hassled by the Law.)

    You could take issue with the opinions I express here; that is your perogative.
    The fact remains that many of the populace have these opinions, they don’t all have a blog in which to express them.
    I’ll keep communicating from my own space, thanks, rather than getting my comments edited by someone on your forum. (You may have noticed your comment wasn’t edited, it appears in all its ungrammatical and poorly paragraphed glory.)

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