The Government will ban all synthetic drugs within two weeks
until they can be proven to be low-risk, Associate Health
Minister Peter Dunne has revealed.
The move comes as Labour plans to announce its own policy on
psychoactive substances tomorrow, and follows increasing
levels of protest from local communities to legal highs.
Mr Dunne told the Herald this afternoon: "Last Tuesday,
Cabinet agreed on a proposal from me to introduce legislation
under urgency when Parliament resumes, to remove the
remaining 41 products from the shelves until such time as
their low-level of risk can be proven."
He said he would have made the announcement earlier but he
did not want to encourage stock-piling of the drugs.
The emergency legislation will be introduced when Parliament
resumes on May 6, and will be passed under urgency.
"I'm expecting it to be passed that particular week and to
take effect pretty much immediately afterwards," Mr Dunne
This meant there would be no psychoactive substances for sale
in New Zealand for "some considerable amount of time".
There are currently 150 outlets selling legal highs
The Psychoactive Substances Act required synthetic drug
manufacturers to prove their drugs were low-risk before they
could be sold.
But a Ministry of Health testing regime and several other
regulations were not yet in place.
In the interim, drugs which had temporary approval from an
expert committee were permitted to be sold.
Forty-one products are on shelves at present, compared to
around 300 before the bill was passed.
"I think that the reason we didn't include those 41 products
initially was that they hadn't been identified as
problematic," Mr Dunne said.
"The public concern of recent weeks has led me to revisit
that question and I've been working on the legislation for
some time now.
"In effect what this will mean is that there will be no
products until such time as the new regime takes effect and
they've been able to be tested."
The ministry's testing regime is expected to be similar to
pharmaceutical drugs, and could cost manufacturers more than
$1 million per product to get drugs approved.
Labour leader David Cunliffe was expected to announce in
Mangere tomorrow that Labour would pull all products from
shelves if elected.
This policy would be made redundant by Mr Dunne's emergency
Labour would also ban the use of animal testing to prove
products were low-risk, which would make it even more
difficult to get products approved.
- Isaac Davison of the NZ Herald