A temporary ban of legal highs

The Herald reports:

The Government will ban all synthetic 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 protest from local communities against 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 resumed 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 said.

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 nationwide.

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.

There’s a degree of moral panic in all this. The number of outlets selling legal highs has gone from 3,000 to 150 and the number of products from 300 to 41. A total ban will not be effective in the medium term.

I’m glad the new regime isn’t being through out – it’s a regime that 120 out of 121 MPs voted for – no matter how much some now pretend they didn’t.

The issue seems to be around the temporary licenses and products remaining available on the temporary licenses for longer than expected as the full testing regime is not yet operational.

So the Government’s move is not entirely unreasonable – but it may become the thin end of the wedge towards total prohibition – which is a policy doomed to failure. I hope not.

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