New party pill law: Prove safe, or don't sell

By Kate Shuttleworth, Herald Online staff

Photo / APN
Photo / APN

A new law has been signed off by Cabinet, requiring distributors and producers to test and prove the safety of party pills and fake cannabis.

The legislation will go before Parliament this year, and the onus of proof will lie with the distributors and producers from the middle of next year.

Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne announced today that under the new psychoactive substances drug law, all party pills and fake cannabis products will be taken off the market next year while they are tested.

"If they [distributors and producers] cannot prove that a product is safe, then it is not going anywhere near the marketplace.''

Mr Dunne said a new regulator would be set up within the Ministry of Health to issue approvals.

"Companies wishing to sell these products will need to apply to this regulator with scientific data similar to that which is required for the assessment of new medicines,'' he said.

While the law has been developed, Temporary Class Drug notices have been issued banning products for 12 months if there are doubts about their safety.

Mr Dunne said this will be rolled over as required so there is no window of opportunity for any banned substances to come back on the market before the permanent law comes in.

The new regulations would propel New Zealand's "obsolete" drug law into the 21st Century, the New Zealand Drug Foundation said.

Its executive director Ross Bell said the rules would stop unknown and untested drug products ending up on New Zealand shelves.

"The new regulations, which place the burden on the industry to prove its products are low risk, are long overdue and are very welcome. The status quo has been an absolute joke."

The rules would stop the party pill industry replacing banned substances with similar products, Mr Bell said.

"Mr Dunne has helped slay the party pill hydra."

Last week four synthetic cannabis substances were banned and any products containing them were being removed from sale.

The change was recommended by a 2011 Law Commission report on the Misuse of Drugs Act.

Mr Dunne confirmed the producers of the party pills and other legal highs would bear the cost of testing.

He did not know how much it would cost the industry but said it would be in the region of $1-$2 million per year.

Over the last 12 months - 28 substances have been banned and 50 products containing them have been taken off the shelves.

He said he would personally like to see all herbal high products removed from the market, but he would settle for the new regime of testing.

Mr Dunne did not know what the changes would cost the Government, and said the figures were currently being worked on.

- APNZ

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