New Zealand's "breakthrough" synthetic drug law could be a
step towards the country legalising cannabis, a US drug
Drug Policy Alliance executive director Ethan Nadelmann, who
has been described as America's leading marijuana
legalisation campaigner, will discuss cannabis law reform and
the regulation of legal highs in Auckland this week.
He is the keynote speaker at the Pathway to Reform conference
on Thursday, which is being hosted by synthetic drug industry
group the Star Trust.
Dr Nadelmann said New Zealand's synthetic drug law, the
Psychoactive Substances Act, was a global "breakthrough" in
No other government had set up a regulatory process to
potentially approve synthetic drugs if their safety could be
established, he said.
"I think there was something profoundly pragmatic about what
New Zealand did and the ways in which the grey market
industry and the Government collaborated to set up this
"I think it's a credit to New Zealand because essentially
what people did, as I see it, is they focussed on the bottom
line, which is safety.
"When a growing number of people are using these drugs,
you've got to make sure they come home safely at the end of
the night and don't end up getting hurt and grow up into
Dr Nadelmann said there would be "virtually no market" for
synthetic cannabis if marijuana was legal - and prohibition
had pushed people towards potentially more dangerous
He said the synthetic drug law could help revive debate in
New Zealand about cannabis law reform - a conversation which
had "faded" while the debate over legal highs took over.
"That spirit of pragmatism can be contagious, and one can
well imagine that it would result in people, including
legislators, being willing to ask the same sorts of questions
regarding other illegal drugs.
"For example, has marijuana prohibition really proven
successful? Has it really protected young people in our
"Is it possible - which is the conversation they're having in
the US now - that a responsible public health approach to
legal marijuana will actually do more to reduce crime and
protect young people?"
The conversation in New Zealand could also be influenced by
the legalisation of cannabis in the US states of Colorado and
Washington, Dr Nadelmann said.
"I think that this change is stimulating and informing a
global dialogue about changing marijuana policies, and I
think that it will have that impact in New Zealand."
The Pathway to Reform is a full-day conference, discussing
the future of moving from drug restriction to regulation.
International experts from Canada, USA, UK, and other
countries will speak at the conference.