Hooper fights fake weed "makes picnic ... not bothered"

Hooper fights fake weed "makes picnic ... not bothered"

Large gatherings for nationwide protests in 23 centres

Opponents of legal highs have gathered in protest around Dunedin in the hope of banning the sale of the drugs throughout New Zealand. While protests were held in 23 centres from Whangerei to Invercargill, Dunedin has seen large gatherings in the Octagon as well as personalised acts of protest outside the popular point-of-sale, Cosmic Corner.

Concerned parent Calvin Hooper took part in the Octagon protest last week and could be seen holding a sign that read “Black 4 Sorrow, White 4 Hope, We don’t want your legal dope.” Hooper was one of approximately 100 people gathered at the protest. Dunedin protest organiser Karen Casey shared why they had gathered in protest saying, “I’m here today to say that the Government of New Zealand have not done enough to protect our children.”

Wayne McFayden was among those parents who had experienced the drug’s negative effects close to home – McFayden’s own son had been struggling with a synthetic cannabis addiction for over a year. The nationwide protests were largely organised through the efforts of concerned mother Julie King, utilising the Facebook page titled “Aotearoa bans the sale and distribution of legal highs in our country” to spur action.

Critic spoke to two 17-year-old girls who said they had been smoking synthetic cannabis for the last three years. “My family thought it was gonna be better [than cannabis] because they put ‘legal’ in front of it,” stated Ayla Espie. She also spoke at the rally, gaining applause when declaring her 26 hours of sobriety, the longest stint she has had in over a year. Although age restrictions have been placed on the drug, the girls claimed to have no problems finding people willing to make the purchase on their behalf. “You can hit anybody up on a street to get it and they’ll buy it for you.”

For Espie, the drug’s effects on her physical health have been major. “I don’t want to be on it any more. I get so sick of it, and when I don’t have it, I don’t sleep, I don’t eat, I don’t do anything. My body doesn’t function.” A close friend of Espie echoed this sentiment, unable to name a single friend in her immediate group that isn’t a regular user of the drug.

Complementing the nationwide activity was limousine driver Calvin Hooper’s own protests outside Cosmic Corner. Hooper has been seen picketing with an amplified microphone outside Cosmic Corner on George Street for several consecutive days after his adult son had for the second time been admitted to Wakari Hospital following dangerous negative reactions to synthetic cannabis. With music being blasted from the store Hooper told Critic, megaphone still on, that within ten minutes of picketing he had received 75 signatures.

“Even the cops came over and basically said, ‘good on you, well done, just keep it within the law and you’ll be fine.’”

“I will continue doing it. I don’t care if it’s for one week or five years. I will sit outside these shops, I’ll make a picnic, it doesn’t bother me, I will keep doing it until something changes … I don’t give a shit what the politicians are saying. I want it off the market.”

Also at the Octagon protest, MP Clare Curran publicly deplored the legislation passed last year that failed to remove the product from stores; legislation she felt the Government “bungled.” A member of the crowd highlighted that Curran had voted in favour of the legislation and asked her where her conscience lay. She acknowledged she thought her vote would help stop the sale of legal highs, but in fact the legislation places blame on city councils and the law needed to be amended.
This article first appeared in Issue 8, 2014.
Posted 4:31pm Sunday 13th April 2014 by Emily Draper.