Pure Fear: Worse than Heroin, this drug’s addictive power was terrifying. People under its influence didn’t drift off to Elysium. Nor did it persuade inadequate individuals that they could conquer the world. No, this drug – pure crystal methamphetamine, “P” for short – unlocked the gates of Hell itself. It conducted its users not to God, but straight to the Devil.
IT MUST BE 20 years, now, since the old hippie’s prophecy. Labour and the Alliance had just formed a government – with the Greens in tow. Nandor Tanczos, wearing his green hemp suit, had skateboarded into Parliament to cries of “Decriminalise Dope!” from his shaggy supporters. All things seemed possible. It was a hopeful time.
But, the old hippie, who looked like Gandalf: long white hair and beard to match; wasn’t hopeful.
New Zealand, he said, was about to be overwhelmed by a drug more terrible than any he had ever before encountered. Worse than Heroin, its addictive power was terrifying. People under its influence didn’t drift off to Elysium. Nor did it persuade inadequate individuals that they could conquer the world. No, this drug – pure crystal methamphetamine, “P” for short – unlocked the gates of Hell itself. It conducted its users not to God, but straight to the Devil.
The old hippie could not see how P could be stopped. The same ingenious Kiwis who had infused plain old New Zealand Green with near-psychedelic potency would be “cooking” methamphetamine before you could say “Breaking Bad”. And, after just one taste, their customers would be back for more, and more, and more, and more. No need to wait upon the seasons. No more trimming resinous heads. No more bulky packages to transport. P could be sold in fractions of a gram. According to “Gandalf”, the P-dealers’ biggest problem was going to be coming up with a way to clean all that dirty money!
He saw it all. The ruthlessness that would follow the introduction of P to New Zealand’s illegal drug market. Serious money, he said, attracts serious people. If you are sitting on hundreds-of-thousands of dollars in used banknotes, then you’re instantly an irresistible target. Arming yourself with something designed to win arguments quickly and decisively makes perfect sense. Your bosses, as unforgiving as they are uninsured, are not the sort of people you want to trouble with tales of loss.
And, twenty years later, here we are – right where “Gandalf” said we would be. Awash with methamphetamine. Awash with “serious people”. Awash with dirty money. Awash with addicts. Awash with the awful social misery serious drug addiction leaves churning in its wake.
New Zealand, like Tolkien’s Shire, has begun to attract attention. We are now on the international drug suppliers’ maps. A small but vigorous market, well worth investing in. And just look at the “investors” who have come a-calling!
Time was when our Kiwi “cooks” got their pseudoephedrine from cold remedies. When these became harder to get, Chinese “triads” took up the slack. Then the Aussies started exporting their worst Kiwi-born criminals across the Tasman. These new gangsters turned out to be linked-in to the supply-chains of the Central and South American drug cartels.
Very serious people indeed!
What to do? Who wants to mess with “the men from Sinaloa”? Is New Zealand big enough to win this fight? On the other hand, can we afford to lose it?
The answer is, we have to win this fight – because the scourge of methamphetamine is relentless. Yes, it is well established in our big cities, but it is also taking hold in those rural and provincial communities from which all who can have already fled. Looking at these dwindling country towns, all the gangsters see are captive markets waiting to be bled dry: economically, physically, emotionally and spiritually. They don’t care – which means we must.
So, let’s have a great deal less political grand-standing, and a great deal more cross-party co-operation and consensus. Rather than put the boot into National for declaring war on the gangs – who are, when all is said and done, the people who make the illegal drug market work – why not invite the Opposition to join with the governing parties in formulating a long-term and unflinching bi-partisan strategy to combat the scourge of methamphetamine from top to bottom?
Yes, Simon Bridges has borrowed a silly Australian name for his task force, but the “broken windows” strategy of not letting even small-scale criminal offending go unchallenged is a bloody good one. Make this country such a difficult environment in which to operate that the gangs’ international suppliers decide that our methamphetamine game is no longer worth their candle.
Prove my old hippie friend wrong – by X-ing P.
This essay was originally published in The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 29 November 2019.