Legal highs to be snuffed out
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Synthetic cannabis products like Kronic will be banned by the end of the week.
The legal highs - available from local dairies - have caused outrage and sparked growing concern in recent months over the effects on users.
Now, the Government is taking a hard line, aiming to rush changes to the Misuse of Drugs Amendment Bill through Parliament by Friday to crackdown on the recreational drugs. It says all 43 current synthetic cannabis products are expected to be out of shops just over a week later.
The changes will see Kronic and other synthetic cannabis products taken off the market for 12 months while the Government works on its detailed response to the Law Commission's recent report on psycho-active drugs, Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne said.
The Government has already signalled that it is looking at the Law Commission recommendation to reverse the onus of proof and require the industry to prove its products are safe.
"We are going to create temporary class drug orders that will allow me to place a 12-month ban on these currently unregulated psychoactive substances and any new ones that come along," Dunne said.
"The bottom line is that these products are generally untested and we do not know the long-term effects of their use and we are not about to just let it all happen and pick up damaged young people at the end."
Dunne said the temporary class drug notices will be an interim measure which will mean the substances will carry the same penalties as Class C1 drugs such as marijuana. Personal possession of the synthetic products though will not be a criminal offence.
Prime Minister John Key said Cabinet would be "looking carefully at crafting permanent legislation in the foreseeable future".
"We are not going to stand by while these substances are constantly being created and being made available for sale," he said.
"We are sending a very strong message that we don't think there is any case for these drugs and we believe they should be taken off the marketplace and we are sending a message to young people that we don't want them taking them."
Key said the Government has moved as quickly as possible on the issue.
"It's unacceptable to the Government that a product that causes potentially lethal risks is available freely to our young people.
"If someone's in possession of the products for their own personal use, they could continue to legally use it."
'Capture them all'
From the date a temporary class drug order comes into force on a substance, the import, export, manufacture, supply and sale of the drug concerned will become illegal.
The notices will be able to be applied to particular synthetic cannabis products, or particular substances that may be in any given product.
"These products change frequently, and new ones are put on the market with a different ingredient or two. We will basically be able to capture them all," Dunne said.
Within the 12 months of a temporary class drug notice being placed on any substance, it will be assessed by a committee to be established for that purpose. The committee will assess risk of harm and recommend to the Health Minister whether a substance should be classified as a controlled drug or scheduled as a restricted substance, or remain unregulated.
Off the shelves
Legal highs from substances such as Kronic have been the subject of intense scrutiny over recent months, with health experts saying they should be made illegal.
Last month, Kronic Pineapple Express and another synthetic cannabis product, Juicy Puff Super Strength, were removed from shops after it was found they contained a prescription-only drug, the anti-anxiety medication phenazepam.
The Government initially refused to move on the drug after an expert advisory committee found there was no conclusive evidence as to why Kronic should be regulated.
But three weeks ago, Dunne said "stronger additional amendments" to drug legislation to deal with synthetic cannabis products were just weeks away.
Dunne said today the process around dealing with these substances has been complex and it was important that the Government get it right.
"Critics have pointed to faster responses overseas, but some of those laws are coming unstuck already, with new products coming on to the market that are not covered.
"We have addressed that here. If new products turn up and we are concerned about them, we will be able to put temporary class drugs notices on them straight away. The net will be cast as wide as it needs to be to protect young New Zealanders.
"This Bill and the legislation coming to reverse the onus of proof will prove better thought out and more comprehensive than much of the overseas law," Dunne said.
Bans 'don't work'
Matt Bowden's Stargate company imports the ingredients to make Kronic, and says the ban won't work.
"There are hundreds of thousands of normal Kiwi adults who enjoy consuming these products," he said.
"They are still going to be able to purchase these products over the next couple of weeks and they are still going to be able to use the products after that. And so it's just going to be crazy for the industry. We wanted tight regulations but prohibition just doesn't work."
Kronic is made of vegetable matter sprayed with chemicals that mimic the effects of cannabis.
Secondary school principals last month pleaded with the Government to move with urgency to stamp out synthetic drugs like Kronic while students were on their holiday break.
The call came as more stories emerged of "out of it" teenagers - some as young as 13 - turning up to school.
Secondary Principals' Association president Patrick Walsh told ONE News the association had information that suggested 13 and 14 year olds were using synthetic cannabis.
He said students who had used Kronic were vomiting, nauseous, disoriented, and some had short term memory loss.
A 14-year-old Hutt Valley High School high school pupil was suspended after being caught dealing in Kronic in June.
Source - http://tvnz.co.nz/national-news/synthetic-cannabis-banned-4335468
New Zealand to Ban Synthetic Marijuana This Week
In a shift from an April decision to regulate rather than prohibition, the government of New Zealand's ruling National Party has moved instead to ban them by the end of this week. It is rushing to amend the Misuse of Drugs Amendments Bill to criminalize some 43 fake weed products currently on store shelves.
The move will create an emergency 12-month ban while the government crafts a detailed response to the law commisions May report on psychoactive substances, which noted that under current New Zealand laws, "a psychoactive substance can be manufactured, imported, and sold without restriction until it is proven harmful and is either regulated or prohibited." The commission called for that burden of proof to be reversed, so that the industry would be required to prove its products are safe.
"We are going to create temporary class drug orders that will allow me to place a 12-month ban on these currently unregulated psychoactive substances and any new ones that come along," said Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne announced. "The bottom line is that these products are generally untested and we do not know the long-term effects of their use and we are not about to just let it all happen and pick up damaged young people at the end."
The cabinet would be "looking carefully at crafting permanent legislation in the foreseeable future," said Prime Minister John Key. "We are not going to stand by while these substances are constantly being created and being made available for sale," he added.
Synthetic cannabinoids, or "cannibimimetics," in the Law Commission's parlance, are synthetic compounds that mimic the action of THC, producing highs similar to that of natural marijuana. The compounds are spraying on herbal material and sold in corner stores under names like Spice and K2 in the US, although Kronic appears to be a favorite name in Australia and New Zealand.
Under the emergency action, fake marijuana will be carry the same penalties as Class C1 drugs such as marijuana, but mere possession of it will not be a criminal offense.
"We are sending a very strong message that we don't think there is any case for these drugs and we believe they should be taken off the marketplace and we are sending a message to young people that we don't want them taking them," Key said. "It's unacceptable to the government that a product that causes potentially lethal risks is available freely to our young people. If someone's in possession of the products for their own personal use, they could continue to legally use it."
The opposition Labor Party is also supporting the temporary ban. "The government needed to act, you can't have product out there with potentially damaging effects. You should ban the product until they can prove it's safe," party leader Phil Goff told TVNZ's Breakfast show Monday morning.
But importer Matt Bowden, who seeks regulation of fake marijuana, warned that prohibition would lead to more potent drugs being developed and would create a black market and empower organized crime.
"Prohibition is counterproductive. It's a failed policy which does nothing for consumers," he said. "A black market happens when you make something illegal and there is a high consumer demand. Right now they are available for a couple of weeks, consumers will be stockpiling them.''
Another interested party, Chris Fowlie of the Hempstore, which sells the products, told TV ONE that despite sensational reports in the media, there are no actual scientific, peer-reviewed studies that back up the sometimes lurid accusations of harm.
"Well, they aren't making it up, but they aren't peer reviewed, so for all we know they could be talking about the same person complaining many times, it could be one particular brand causing all the problems, we don't know, so until we have those studies, it's guess work," he said. "The law does say that the classification of drugs does have to be based on evidence, that's built into the misuse of drugs act and Peter Dunne is ignoring that."
Fowlie predicted that the ban will create new problems. "Firstly you will see retailers dumping stock, we for one will be having a big sale to get rid of everything we've got, and you will see new products come out immediately after the ban."
source - http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/2011/aug/01/new_zealand_ban_synthetic_mariju