A pledge to introduce legislation aimed at removing all
remaining legal highs from shelves within weeks has been
welcomed as ''better late than never'' by Dunedin Mayor Dave
Mr Cull was commenting after Associate Health Minister Peter
Dunne late yesterday announced legislation to remove all
remaining so-called ''legal highs'' from sale would be
introduced to the House on May 8.
The legislation was expected to be passed under urgency the
same day and would come into force days later.
Mr Cull said the move was in line with the public's view that
legal highs should be banned, not controlled, and it was
''better late than never''.
However, it also begged the question, as the Government had
until now maintained it was not possible to simply ban the
products and had instead ''abdicated responsibility'' to
local governments to control them, he said.
''Up until now, we've been consistently told by the
Government and Minister Dunne that it wasn't possible.
''I think it's good that it would appear the Government has
found a way to provide what the public and various
communities have been asking for.''
Toxicologist Dr Leo Schep, of the National Poisons Centre, in
Dunedin, also welcomed the Government's move as an important
step to protect young people.
However, he was also ''surprised it's taken that long'',
given the ''groundswell'' of public concern at the impact
legal highs were having on people's short- and long-term
health, he said.
People trying to quit were having ''pronounced'' adverse
effects, including ''severe, persistent vomiting to the point
of blood'', and he was ''worried - really worried - about the
long-term effects of these drugs''.
''The emerging chronic effects are what seriously concern me,
and we're only just starting to see them now. For some
people, that could be permanent health issues.''
Mr Cull said he had also heard numerous stories about the
''horrendous'' effects of legal highs.
The country had found itself in the ''ridiculous'' situation
where a legal substance was more dangerous than cannabis, the
illegal drug it had replaced for some.
While ''pleased a way forward appears to have been found'',
Mr Cull also worried other products could yet emerge, or some
users would find other, more harmful, ways to get high.
For that reason, Mr Cull said he supported reconsidering the
legal status of cannabis, if it led to a better approach to
However, with more evidence of cannabis' impact on young
people also emerging, Mr Cull stressed he had come to no
conclusions about the merits of decriminalisation.
''We should be taking a broader view of all mind-altering
substances and coming up with a sensible regime.''
However, Dr Schep said he would not support such a move,
arguing cannabis was not without harmful effects.
''I don't think it needs a review.''
He said some users would find other ways to get high, ''but
you have to put the brakes on''.
''By banning [legal highs], you're effectively putting the
brakes on. You're also sending a signal out that these are