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  1. Rob Cypher
    All synthetic drugs will be pulled off the shelves within two weeks, until individual testing has proven each brand is "low-risk", the Government has announced.

    Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne told Fairfax Media, "while there has been a substantial reduction in the number of these products available and the number of outlets from which they can be sold, reports of severe adverse reactions continue to be received by the National Poisons Centre and Centre for Adverse Reactions Monitoring."

    "It has been impossible to attribute these adverse effects to any particular products and in the absence of that ministers accepted my recommendation at cabinet last Tuesday to end the transitional period, taking all products with interim approval off the market.

    "I will bring to Parliament amending legislation to put this measure in place, to be introduced and passed through all stages under urgency on 8 May and come into force the day after receiving the Royal Assent."

    The legislation would see the remaining 41 products removed from shelves until testing had confirmed they carried a low level of risk.

    His announcement has taken the wind out of the sails for Labour, which was set to release its own policy on synthetic cannabis tomorrow.

    Leader David Cunliffe announced earlier today, Labour would also be seeking to introduce a total ban on psychoactive substances until testing had proven they were relatively safe.

    He told Fairfax the Government had "fallen asleep at the wheel" over introducing a testing a regime.

    "Had we known 18 months down the track that no regime would yet be in place, we would have insisted back then that all drugs had to go through the testing process before they were allowed onto the market."

    Dunne has said he expected the new laws to be passed within the week, and for stock to be pulled off shelves almost immediately.

    Cunliffe said Labour would still be announcing its full policy on Tuesday, which also included a ban on animal testing.

    "I'd call this a victory for the Opposition, rolling the Government on a situation that was doing immeasurable harm to young New Zealanders.

    "We are pleased that other parties have joined the fight against synthetic cannabis, which we have now announced."

    The harm caused by the legal highs has been widely reported.

    Results from this year's Global Drug Survey, conducted in partnership with Fairfax Media, found almost 4 per cent of synthetic cannabis users sought emergency medical treatment.

    More than a quarter of those were admitted to hospital.

    Some of the side effects from synthetic cannabis, that had been reported to the National Poisons Centre included anxiety, vomiting, chest pain and headache, as well as recent cases of kidney failure, seizures, psychosis and heart attacks.

    Under the Psychoactive Substances Act, introduced in July last year, licensed retailers can sell drugs deemed to pose a low risk of harm.

    But the Health Ministry can ban approved products based on reports of adverse effects provided to the Centre for Adverse Reactions Monitoring (Carm) and the National Poisons Centre.

    There are currently 150 outlets throughout the country selling legal highs.

    Stuff.co.nz (New Zealand)
    April 27, 2014



  1. Rob Cypher
    Parents of young legal-high users were applauding the move to ban them last night.

    One mother has watched two of her sons battle addiction to synthetic cannabis for five years and spoke to the Herald about the impact it has had.

    "These drugs are appalling, highly, highly addictive, you only need look at a young person on them to know how bad they are," said the woman, who did not want her name published to protect her sons' privacy.

    "It took my son 15 seconds to react to having cold water thrown in his face. The withdrawals cause aggression, stomach problems, etc, and the drugs themselves cause breathing difficulties to the extent that a doctor has my son on asthma medication."

    She said she brought both of her sons up knowing the "realities" of drug addiction, especially the long-term effects of marijuana.

    "They stayed away from that and got addicted to this legal poison instead," she said.

    "They would have been better on marijuana and I'm very anti that and alcohol - so that's saying a lot. I've watched too many lives ruined. This stuff is like smoking commercial insecticide."

    Another mother said the announcement was "great news".

    "My son has been taking these, stealing to fund his addiction and failing to buy food every week.

    "He gets psychotic on these."

    A third mother also contacted the Herald, pleased to hear the substances would be banned.

    "I would like to say that banning legal highs is awesome news. My son had been taking these for a while, it had changed his personality into a horrible person and was destroying our family," she said.

    "He was using this stuff throughout the night as he said it helped him sleep. He became violent, a liar and stole from his own family. What this was doing to his health was unbelievable - it made him vomit often and also caused seizures.

    "He is one of the lucky ones and woke up to what it had done to him after being admitted into hospital. He has friends that are also addicted to it."

    The former user

    Blair Marsh was introduced to the legal high Illusion in 2012 when he started a new job. The 27-year-old Dunedin man became addicted "instantly" and only gave up when forced to choose between the drug and his partner and four young children.

    "A friend I started working with smoked that stuff and I got into it. We were smoking it all the time after work - every time we got a chance basically," he said.

    "I got hooked on it. I smoked it every day. I couldn't go a day without it and I put my family second.

    "When I was high I would eat a lot and when I wasn't on the legals I wouldn't eat at all. I would also be a zombie and fall asleep anywhere - even if it was standing up. My speech was always slurry when I was high and no one could understand what I would be saying.

    "My family suffered the most as I would sell our belongings just to get my next packet or fix."

    After his workmate was found dead in a Dunedin park, the result of ingesting a lethal combination of legal highs and solvents including butane, his partner gave him an ultimatum.

    "My partner said 'choose - it's either your kids or this stuff'. I had to get off it, I was going to lose my family," Mr Marsh said.

    He has not used legal highs for more than two years now, but still suffers the effects.

    "I have depression, I snap at little things ... I don't have any physical effects, it's mental and psychological. I'm starting to get better but it's still affecting me after two years."

    He was thrilled to hear that legal highs would soon be banned - something he has been rallying for since his mate died. "I am pleased that they are finally listening to the people of New Zealand. It should have been done sooner.

    "It's very easy to get hooked, I was hooked basically after the first puff. I couldn't function without it - it was that bad. People don't know the effects it has. It's very scary, if I'd have known what it would do to me I wouldn't have touched it at all. It's such a bad thing to have in New Zealand.

    "I am now a better person for not being on this stuff."

    The supplier

    Those on the front line of the legal-high business are worried about their business, job losses and people turning to illegal drugs as a result of the ban.

    Himanshu Mittal, 29, accounts manager for Shosha, which has four outlets in Auckland, said it was "almost certain" that some of the 15 staff would be losing their jobs.

    "About 60 per cent of our business is from legal highs, so when it is banned how are we going to sustain the business or even all our staff?" said Mr Mittal.

    "We have abided by the law since we opened three years ago, and now we are just victims of a political game in an election year."

    Mr Mittal said he spent most of yesterday on the phone talking with suppliers and his other branch managers about what to do with the remaining stock.

    Another operator on K Rd, who did not want to be named, said he had received several telephone requests from customers to "bulk buy" following news of the ban.

    "Two weeks is an extremely short time, we have to find a way to get rid of our stock and customers want to stock up," he said.

    One user, a former cannabis addict, said he would turn back to the illegal drug should this ban go ahead. "Legal highs have been my ticket out, it's cheap and safe, but what choice do you have when that's taken away?" he said.

    Lincoln Tan & Anna Leask
    New Zealand Herald
    April 28, 2014

  2. Rob Cypher
    Synthetic cannabis users and suppliers have today been stocking up on the substances with just hours to go before they become illegal.

    An emergency bill was passed 107 votes to 14 last night, effectively banning the products and revoking last year's interim approval of 41 cannabinoids so that more tests can be done to ensure they are safe.

    All synthetic drugs have to be removed from shop shelves tonight and anything bought today needs to be consumed or disposed of by tomorrow. The products may eventually be legalised again once they are checked.

    However, their sudden removal has prompted concerns for the wellbeing of people who have become dependent on the substances.

    "If I don't get it I'll get withdrawals really really bad, be vomiting really bad for three days, four days, five days nonstop," says synthetic cannabis user Hayley Grant.

    One drugs advisory group wants users to have a six-month amnesty from prosecution.

    "You're shifting people very quickly from a legal market to an illegal market," says Drugs Foundation spokesman Ross Bell.

    "That can put up a barrier to those people who need help, who are wanting to look for help but are afraid they might get busted by the police."

    You can view expert advice on how to deal with withdrawals from synthetic cannabis here.

    Inspector Alan Shearer from Counties Manukau Police says any leniency will depend on the circumstances.

    He says police have been kept busy over the past few days with a number of thefts from stores supplying the synthetic drugs and are tonight trying to pre-empt any more crime as the clock ticks down.

    New Plymouth police say that the product has already infiltrated the underground drug market and that drugs will be sold in "tinnie houses" as soon as they are off the shelves.

    Several people that ONE News spoke to say that they will now be looking to the black market for their supply.

    Amendment Bill not enough for council

    Meanwhile, Wanganui District Council is pushing ahead with plans for a by-law to prevent synthetic cannabis from ever coming back on sale in the city.

    The proposed legislation would restrict when and where legal highs could be sold, with particular efforts being made to keep them away from local schools and parks.

    "We don't want them in places where our children and young people congregate," says Community Action on Youth and Drugs Coordinator Julie Herewini.

    Many residents are behind the bylaw, with some saying more parts of New Zealand should be following their lead.

    ONE News
    May 7, 2014

  3. Rob Cypher
    A bill banning the manufacture, sale and possession of synthetic highs from Thursday completed all stages tonight.

    The Psychoactive Substances Amendment Bill completed its third reading by 107 votes with 14 Green MPs abstaining.

    The bill ends all interim product approvals/licenses to sell the products once described as legal highs. No synthetic highs will be legal until they have been proven to be safe, though no regime exists to do this yet.

    The bill completed all stages today with penalties for making, selling and possessing illegal highs from Thursday.

    The bill would also restrict the use of animal testing by making any evidence from such trials inadmissible in proving they are safe.

    The original bill passed by 119 to 1 with just John Banks opposing on the basis of animal testing being envisaged.

    The bill repealing interim sales was supported by all parties with the exception of the Greens. The Greens said they were in favour of a ban on animal testing, but said prohibition on synthetic highs would just create a more dangerous black market.

    Parliament will resume at 2pm tomorrow.

    Some excerpts from a quickly put together regulatory impact assessment sums up problems with both the current law and the pros and cons of prohibition.

    The problem with the current regime is regulations and approvals around safety have not been completed

    “The regulations have not yet been made and are required to ensure the workability of the legislation. The most significant of these in terms of workability are the regulations that prescribe the information industry will be required to provide in applying for approval of a product. The development of these regulations will require decisions on the threshold of low risk and the evidence that will be needed, in terms of results of pre-clinical and clinical trials, to demonstrate it.

    “Currently there are 35 products with interim approval, the majority of which are synthetic cannabis products designed to be smoked. The Ministry estimates that prior to the legislation there were between 200-300 products available for sale from shops, including dairies. The products that are subject to an interim approval are those products that were available in the three months leading up to enactment. This means that, since enactment, no new products have been brought to market. Twelve of the products that met this criterion at the time of enactment have since been removed from the market following concerns about their safety.”

    The current market is large

    “The Ministry estimates, based on data obtained from licence holders, that around three and a half million packets of products with an interim approval have been sold since July 2013, however we do not know how many people have purchased or used these products.

    “The Ministry understands that the profit margins for product owners, manufacturers and sellers are large. Synthetic psychoactive substances typically, are imported from China at around $1,500-$2,000 per kilogram. A kilogram of psychoactive substance is sufficient active ingredient to manufacture around 10,000 small-medium sized packets of smokable product. The most popular products sell in packets of 1.5 to 2.5 grams and costs around $20. The Ministry understands that the cost of manufacturing a product (packaging and contents) is around $1-2 per packet.

    “There are currently 149 retailers with interim licences to sell psychoactive products. Prior to enactment, the Ministry understands that there were between 3,000-4,000 retailers. This was a much larger number than the Ministry’s 2012 estimate of 1,000 retailers. Many of those retailers were dairies and outlets that are now prohibited from applying for licences under the Act.

    “Since enactment, the Ministry estimates that around three and a half million packets of products have been sold with an approximate retail value of $70 million and that the annual retail sales is likely to be around $140 million.
    A safety regime should have been in place by now and the interim regime was only meant to last six months

    “These interim provisions were expected to last no more than six months and were introduced because of concerns about black market activity arising if no products were legally available. It was not a perfect solution as the provisions retain the pre-enactment problem of requiring the Government to react to concerns and take action, rather than putting the onus on industry to demonstrate a product meets a determined safety threshold. On balance, however, the Ministry considered that if certain products had been used prior to enactment without safety concerns, it was preferable to allow this small number of products to remain on the legal market, than expose users to a potentially more dangerous black market.

    “However, since July 2013, there have been continuing concerns about the harms associated with the use of products with interim approvals, largely in relation to synthetic cannabis. While the PSRA can act quickly to take products off the market following reports of adverse reactions, this requires evidence of harm associated with specific named products. For many of the reports to the NPC and the Centre for Adverse Reactions Monitoring, it has not been possible to attribute reactions to a specific product and reports are generally a generic reference to “synthetic cannabis”. This means that the powers of the Authority are curtailed preventing the Authority from removing products from the market and to date, only 12 products have been recalled in this way.

    “The work on developing the regulations that will make the Act fully workable is on-going. It is expected that the regulations will be in place by the end of 2014. In the meantime, the Ministry has considered options to address the problems with the interim approval provisions.”

    The effects of prohibition

    “People who use these products are expected to stockpile them for their own personal use and the black market is assumed to stockpile to supply future demand. Because these mechanisms will provide for the continued supply of these products irrespective of legal status, use and associated harms amongst dedicated users is expected to continue. However, the cessation of legal sale can reasonably be assumed to reduce the use of these products amongst casual users.

    “Up to 161 retailers (including suspended retailers) and 9 manufacturers of psychoactive products will be affected and it is reasonable to assume that businesses will close if this option is progressed. The maximum impact is estimated at up to $60 million dollars in foregone revenue. This estimate is based on the intention that regulations to allow for product testing will be in place within 6 months. Following passage of regulations, the majority of products were expected to come off the market anyway, at least temporarily, while testing was undertaken. The figure also includes an allowance for a spike in sales before the amendment is passed.

    “The most likely response by industry would be to off load excess supply through heavy discounting prior to the legislation coming into force. Some industry members may choose to wholesale their remaining supply to black market vendors such as gangs who we expect to take over trade in these products if this option is chosen.

    “All people who use these products will suffer a loss of utility following their removal from the market. There will also be legal implications for them if they continue to use them. People caught in possession of these products will be liable to a fine (no conviction) of up to $500. However, if people decide to stockpile large quantities and on-sell, they will be subject to criminal penalties of up to 2 years imprisonment.”

    Parliament Today
    May 6, 2014

  4. Rob Cypher
    Hmm, I thought this experiment in NZ was supposed to work out. What happened? :confused:

    [thanks to alfa for the initial tips]
    Many legal high users will turn to ice which is the most readily available illegal drug in the world.

    Authorities globally have reduced illegal marijuana consumption to a level that users are spending their money on ice.

    The writing is as good as on the wall and the only thing that has stopped an ice epidemic in NEW ZEALAND is the sale of synthetic substances.

    Marijuana is bulky to import with little money to be made so suppliers turn to local growing which is easily spotted from the air by choppers, this creates shortages of marijuana thus users look for alternative highs being ice and heroin.

    I do believe many substances can be harmless when used in moderation.

    Even the most necessary of substances required by all to live if used in excess can be harmful to the extent that it will cause death -WATER.
  6. AKA_freckles
    What's all this about dairies?

    In the U.S. dairies are were milk comes from.

    Is it different in NZ?
  7. AKA_freckles
    Ugh my tablet double posted.

    So I looked it up and dairies are small grocery stores. Ok, I love to learn things like that.

    Has this law actually taken effect?
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