VICE: “Synthetic Drug Revolution” / “Transsexuals of Iran”



Overview: In the world of synthetic drugs, man-made chemical compounds are often engineered to skirt narcotics laws-and have become some of the most frequently abused substances in American high schools. The makers of these drugs race to keep ahead of law enforcement by making incremental changes in the compounds’ molecular structure, even though the effects of those alterations can turn out to be dangerous. VICE correspondent Hamilton Morris tracks these chemicals back to the Chinese factories where many are made, and meets with the godfather of modern synthetic drugs at his remote lab in New Zealand.VICE_Transsexuals-300x169

VICE follows the stories of homosexuals and transsexuals in Iran as they navigate a terrifying cultural landscape. When Ayatollah Khomeini came to power in 1979, he enforced strict Islamic custom that made homosexuality punishable by death. Surprisingly, though, the state treats transsexuals differently, allowing sexual reassignment surgery and in some cases even paying for it. But, the fatwa allowing the surgery has a grim drawback – families, therapists, and the state see gender reassignment as a solution to the “illness” of homosexuality-not understanding the risks of forcing the long, life-changing process of a sex change on someone who wasn’t born wanting it. Gay Iranians now face the agonizing choice of fleeing their communities or permanently changing who they are.


Expectations: Okay, it should be no surprise to any of us that new and/or modified drugs are hitting the streets every day. Just how all this new innovation in the drug trade is coming about seems intriguing because I have no clue. Just who does come up with this stuff? It seems a mad chemist in New Zealand evidently is behind it. It also adds an iota of interest to have a new correspondent on the prowl.

As to the second segment in this week’s installment, I love VICE when it throws something at you that you never thought you’d ever spend time thinking about and then ends up getting you to think about it, even briefly. The homosexual and transsexual population of Iran is certainly one of those topics. So get ready to ponder the dilemma they face. Get ready for VICE. The following preview helps.


Gut Reaction: “Synthetic Drug Revolution” by correspondent Hamilton Morris sets up a scary scenario. It starts when two cooperative NYC residents walk into a corner store and buy ‘legal drugs” while being filmed by VICE. It turns out that they are legal because they are slightly chemically modified variations of the illegal drugs known to send you on a wild trip. It proves how easily obtained these substances are and how easily they can be mass produced, distributed and used. These new and legal synthetics are right behind marijuana as the happy drugs of choice.

VICE_MattBowden-300x192Morris takes us to the brainchild or mad scientist, if you prefer, who whips up the trippy concoctions. He is Matt Bowden and he hails from New Zealand and his viewpoint is why not make “safer” synthetic drugs that deliver the same effect as the good stuff but with less side effects. Morris hits the nail on the head with his response I think when he says it is like the human population is the giant clinical trial for this stuff. Am I the only one who sees that as a bad notion?

Our correspondent even gets into mass producing labs in China where tons of drugs are churned out like only the Chinese can. Distributors buy them in bulk. U. S. citizens can order them online and get them mailed right to them in packaging that makes it look like candy and law enforcement can’t keep up with it. Form your own opinion whether or not this all seems like a bad problem, because you sure as hell know there are some tripped out folks who don’t.  

Who would have thought about “Transsexuals of Iran” by correspondent Thomas Morton? It seems VICE would. In fact, if you visit you will see many reports about LGBT communities from around the world. I have, however, never given foreign contingencies much thought until now. Follow this – under Islamic law homosexuality is forbidden yet gender reassignment surgery is permissible. That means, as this report proves, that many homosexuals in the country are, in order to protect themselves, are electing to have the surgery so that they may engage in relationships with the gender they feel comfortable being with. Huh? The report eases into the situation well by meeting with fled Iranian gays now in Toronto, VICE_MortonInterviews-300x149Ontario, Canada. One such gay man sets up what is happening in his home country and Thomas Morton heads to Iran.

While there he talks to a urologist assigned to the drastic surgeries and a cleric that explains why transsexuals are permitted under the law. It is too simple really. Homosexuals are mentioned in the Quran as forbidden and transsexuals are not mentioned at all and therefore permissible. Frightened gays hold onto that fact and in desperation forgo a psychological evaluation in hopes of somehow saving themselves in the eyes of the Law and Allah. It is a messed up social situation that is not all that surprising from Iran really. It is a shame that they must physically change themselves in order to avoid execution.


In Conclusion: Hamilton Morris got a great story to share this week. Though stories from around the world can be shocking those that hit home are more intense, at least for me. USA users are the trial mice for the new drugs out there. This report was right up Morris’s alley as he is the Science editor for VICE and a chemist himself. He has done several science reports on this topic for VICE and now turned it into a segment for VICE on HBO. Mr. Morris was a natural at it as he is the son of famed documentarian Errol Morris (The Thin Blue Line and Fog Of War).

My main point about Morton’s segment this week is that I thought it a bit misdirected. It explained the odd loophole in Islamic law well enough, but we didn’t follow a gay man or a transsexual going through the gender reassignment. I thought we might have had an stronger interview with a gay who got out of the country because he didn’t want the surgery than the brief quotes we got or even filming following a gay fleeing to Ankara or secretly talking to someone who went through the life altering surgery. If we were going to broach the topic then let’s go all in. I just expected more from that segment. There is always next week.

For the Debrief the pattern is to offer one up for the top segment of the show, so here is more with Hamilton Morris.


He makes an interesting point in the Q & A. He says that no one prefers the synthetic knockoff cannabis, but it is illegal to use the real cannabis, so some will fuel the need for the legal knockoffs instead. A vicious cycle continues.


Next Week:  On 04.17 VICE presents the 28th installment and the sixth this season at 11:00pm. In the half-hour we will look at the race for new antibiotics and illegal palm oil plantations. Here is the preview. Peace.  

Find Episode 26 here.
Find Episode # 28 here.

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