‘Let’s talk about Drugs’ Turns To ‘Let’s Talk Shit’

‘Let’s talk about Drugs’ Turns To ‘Let’s Talk Shit’

Chlöe was lucky to leave when she had the chance

Sparks flew at an otherwise underwhelming ‘Let’s talk about Drugs’ event where panellists and the handful of attendees squabbled over who can prevent drug harm the best. At its peak, 15 people were at the event, including its four panellists: Max Phillips (president of Students for Sensible Drug Policy), Green Party Co-Leader Chlöe Swarbrick, Dr Brin Ryder (Drug Checking Lead for Te Waipounamu), and Sergeant Steve “Jonesy” Jones (Alcohol Harm Prevention Dunedin). 

Of chief concern in the Q+A session was drug reform in Aotearoa. As usual, Chlöe’s knowledge on the matter blew the others out of the water, with Jonesy even referring to her as “Mum” at one stage. Chlöe was clear in her concern that little would happen under a National-led coalition government, saying that “they’re not even aware of the fact that we have legal drug checking.” To this she stated, “Our drug law reform is your gateway to anti-capitalism,” to the delight of the Marxists in the crowd. This supported Max’s assertions that legalised drugs “shouldn’t be for profit.”

The night was pretty tame at this point, with Chlöe turning her camera off every once in a while to grab a snack (we see you chewing girl). This tameness didn’t last, though, as Chlöe got off the Zoom and chaos unleashed when Lachlan, a student in the crowd (also the Otago co-regional manager of KnowYourStuffNZ), asked the panel: “What would you do if you saw me on the street smoking a joint?” Sergeant Steve Jones had a bit of time to brood, while the others took a stab at answering the question, before stating, “I wouldn’t throw you to the ground and put you in handcuffs, but I would likely suggest that you leave the area.” 

Lachlan also posited to the panel a “thought experiment” in which drugs could be legal only at festivals — which was shut down pretty quickly. Jonesy promptly replied, “Ah, no.” In turn, Chlöe tore the idea a new one, saying that something that had been “upsetting” to her in the six years of drug law reform work she’s done was that “when drugs are killing poor people there isn’t much concern, but when it threatens kids of middle class backgrounds at festivals that’s when there’s most buy-in and concern,” pointing out that drug-checking services have been made available at festivals but not vulnerable communities who experience the most harm. “It’s not limited to festivals,” she said.

There were other questions asked and a particularly long monologue from an audience member at the last minute who chirped up right when Critic was hoping to make it home for bed. She killed the last of our dwindling attention span. All in all, it was a fairly quiet affair but a solid opportunity to get some people in the room (virtually or otherwise) to continue the ever-important conversation of how best to protect our communities from drug and alcohol harm.

This article first appeared in Issue 5, 2024.
Posted 3:23pm Saturday 23rd March 2024 by Hugh Askerud.