Politicians are set to fast-track a Bill to clamp down on
the sale of legal highs following increased public concern
about synthetic cannabis.
Yesterday, Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne said he
would push the Psychoactive Substances Bill through
Parliament, with the aim of having legislation in place in
A spokeswoman for Prime Minister John Key told the Otago
Daily Times that efforts to fast-track the Bill had the
support of Mr Key and Cabinet.
''The Prime Minister does have concerns around these
products, which is why he has supported the Temporary Class
Drug Notice regime, which is a temporary measure until
legislation is in place.''
Mr Dunne said it was complicated legislation.
''We need to get it right and leave no loopholes for this
industry, but we were already pushing this legislation
quickly and it is now getting quicker.
''We are fully aware of the concerns of New Zealanders around
these products and this industry.''
That concern was noted in a hard-hitting Southern District
Health Board (SDHB) submission.
The health board introduced a new security policy for
synthetic cannabis users at Dunedin Hospital's emergency
department after a security guard was assaulted last October.
Following the assault, the hospital deemed that staff
must ''call security immediately when a patient presents
after consuming synthetic cannabinoids''.
''Emergency department staff are dealing with increasing
numbers of patients adversely affected by these products and
they have expressed concern about both the short-term and
long-term effects of usage,'' the submission noted.
Reported symptoms included hallucinations, agitation,
seizures and violent aggression among patients.
The use of synthetic cannabis was also having a ''significant
impact'' in mental health wards and was partly to blame for
increasing assaults on staff.
''Patients are displaying high levels of aggression after
consuming synthetic cannabis.''
Public Health South had received complaints about the
products from people in Dunedin, Mosgiel and Oamaru. Some
complaints alleged retailers were selling the products to
buyers aged under 18.
The SDHB had a responsibility to ''improve, promote and
protect the health of people and communities'', the
''Given this responsibility, it is important that we speak up
in support of the Bill. We would like to express our concern
over the degree of harm being caused by psychoactive
substances which are currently legal, such as synthetic
cannabinoids, among our local communities; and the impact it
is having on our health services.''
Labour associate health spokesman Iain Lees-Galloway said
while his party was happy with the intent of the Bill, it
could have been introduced much sooner.
The Bill would establish a licensing regime for people
wanting to manufacture and import the substances, but the
Opposition wanted that widened to include those who sold
''We also want greater ability for communities to have their
say about exactly where the shops that sell legal highs can
be placed in their communities.''
• Would reverse the onus of proof by making all
psychoactive substances illegal unless they were proven low
risk by the manufacturers.
• The Bill is before the health select committee
and is expected to be reported back to Parliament on June
• Submissions on the Bill closed earlier this
month with 32 evidence/submissions received, including from
the Southern District Health Board, Dunedin City Council, and
the New Zealand Police Association.