Mike Sabin, MP for Northland, has welcomed the proposed regime related to legal high manufacturers and suppliers announced yesterday by Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne.
In announcing details of the permanent psychoactive substances regime, Mr Dunne stated that legal high manufacturers will face estimated $180,000 application fees plus $1 million to $2 million in testing costs for each product they want to sell, and up to eight years in prison for selling banned substances.
“As a former drug enforcement detective and drug policy specialist I applaud this move, something I have called for given the alarming evolution of New Zealand’s legal high culture,” says Mr Sabin.
“This regime will put an end to the cat-and-mouse game of constantly chasing down substances after they are on the market and importantly put the onus of proof for the safety of the consumer on those who manufacture and supply,” says Mr Sabin.
“I have studied the development of synthetic drugs – both illicit and those that are considered legal – across the world, and the endless chemical combinations which enable manufacturers and suppliers to beat legislation have proved an enormous challenge, so this move is somewhat world-leading.
“This regime, which should be in place by mid next year, will impose substantial testing and application costs for those involved in making and selling these substances which in itself will create major implications for those involved, let alone the challenge of passing the testing requirements themselves.
“In reversing the onus of proof, those who profit from these products will have to prove they are as safe as is possible for psychoactive substances, and the costs will be borne by those who stand to profit rather than the taxpayer. But more importantly, the consumer will no longer be the guinea pigs for these people who have claimed they are safe but have not had to demonstrate it," Mr Sabin says.
Penalties under the new regime will include up to eight years in prison for importing, manufacturing, supplying or possession with intent to supply analogues of controlled drugs that come under the Misuse of Drugs Act, and up to two years for import, manufacture, supply or possession with intent to supply unapproved substances.
Other key features of the new regime approved by Cabinet include: • Personal possession of an unapproved product will incur a $300 fine. • There will be a minimum purchase age of 18. • No advertising except at point of sale. • Restrictions on outlets, including barring dairies from selling such products, and labelling and packaging requirements.
The $300 personal possession fine is deliberately not being legislated as a criminal offence.
“What the Government is trying to do is actually protect young people, not criminalise them and thereby jeopardise their job and travel prospects. This is an approach that is similar to the one being taken with alcohol infringements,” says Mr Sabin. Labelling and packaging requirements will mean that all products will need a label listing their active ingredients, the phone number for the National Poisons Centre and contact details for the product’s New Zealand manufacturer or supplier.
The required legislation will be introduced later this year and it is expected to be in place by the middle of next year. In the meantime, all existing temporary class drug notices will be rolled over so the 28 substances and more than 50 synthetic cannabis products already banned remain banned until the permanent regime is in place.