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
Legal highs to be banned