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'King of legal highs' may stage return

By Kieran Campbell

Matt Bowen bowed out of the industry in 2011 when the Government moved to ban synthetic cannabis.  Photo / Brett Phibbs
Matt Bowen bowed out of the industry in 2011 when the Government moved to ban synthetic cannabis. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Legal high pioneer Matt Bowden has hinted he may return to the industry once the Government makes changes to legislation to make it safer.

Mr Bowden, who was known as the king of legal highs and introduced party pills to New Zealand, bowed out of the industry in 2011 when the Government moved to ban synthetic cannabis.

He warned then that the Government would "send the legal high industry to a place I don't want to go".

But Mr Bowden has hinted he will make a return pending the Psychoactive Substances Bill due to be introduced in August, which will force manufacturers to prove substances are "low risk" before being sold.

"I'm feeling pretty happy that New Zealand is taking a sensible approach," Mr Bowden said. "It's going to be a very different industry next year."

When asked if he intended to return to selling legal highs, Mr Bowden said: "Let's talk about that in August."

Mr Bowden, who has focused on his psychedelic rock band Starboy since ceasing to produce legal highs, said he supported the new regulations, which he said he had spent 15 years campaigning for.

He would not say if he knew the manufacturer behind the controversial K2, who last week decided to stop supplying the drug in New Zealand until the new rules were introduced in August.

Grant Hall, the general manager of psychoactive drug advocacy group The Star Trust, said if the regulations worked it made sense for Mr Bowden to return to the industry.

"It makes perfect sense for someone like Matt Bowden to get into that business and be leading the way with these new products which are licensed in the first ever licensing regime on planet Earth," Mr Hall said.

"That's a big business opportunity and I don't blame the guy if he sees it as one."

The Star Trust, which was formed in March, is funded by "private contributions" from individuals and organisations who Mr Hall would not name. He said it was a coincidence the trust was similarly named to Mr Bowden's company, Star Gate. Mr Hall said "star" was an acronym for Social Tonics (the global name for psychoactive drugs) Advocacy and Research.

Mr Hall said he expected the new regulations to be "good news for the public".

"Every industry has a few bad players and this industry's no different. Hopefully most of them will be flushed out by this new bill."

- APNZ

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