http://www.stuff.co.nz/stuff/0,2106,3765922a11,00.html Party pill retailers under fire 16 August 2006 By MIKE STEERE Christchurch herbal-high dealers are being criticised by a party pill industry insider who says they need to clean up their act. Chris Fowlie, manager of Auckland party pill retailer The Hemp Store, and president of pro-marijuana group Norml, alleges that some Christchurch party pill stores are selling pills that are too strong. "Some stores have pills that are up to 1000mg of BZP ( benzylpiperazine ). They pack their pills with as much as they can," Fowlie said. "If you are used to a lower dosage and you take two or three of them, you are going to be in pain." The exact impact of party pills on the body is not yet known, but studies are under way. Fowlie felt the problems stemming from Christchurch stores had given the industry as a whole a bad name. "Most of the hospitalisations are happening in Christchurch. "We don't have the same issues up here. I think you could solve all of those admissions by tightening up on the dosages," Fowlie said. Social Tonics Association of New Zealand chairman Matt Bowden said it had been lobbying for retailers to hold a formal qualification to dispense party pills. "Retail assistants who sit between the pill and consumer should hold a formal qualification in an area of alcohol and drug clinical assessment," he said. Distributors should not be selling packets with more than 600mg of BZP in it or pills with more than 200mg of BZP per dose, Bowden said. Fowlie supported measures to ban advertising party pills. He said they were not a gateway to harder drugs, but instead provided a "safer alternative". "We originally supplied them to get people off the proper drugs," he said. "At least with party pills you know that one pill is exactly the same as the next one." Dean Davis, of Christchurch party pill shop The Lab, said limiting dosages would be pointless. "We have always had a recommended dosage on packets, but how can you stop people buying more than one packet?" The highest BZP content in a pill in The Lab was 300mg, he said. Many clients had come off harder illicit drugs and had turned to party pills as a legal alternative, Davis said. Jim Anderton, chairman of the Ministerial Committee on Drugs, said a reassessment of party pills by the Expert Advisory Committee on Drugs ( EACD ) would take place at the end of the year. The effects of party pills were being studied, he said. "I would personally ban party pills tomorrow if it were up to me ... but when the experts reassess party pills they will have a substantial evidence base on which to make their recommendations ... that I will not hesitate to act upon," he said. Fowlie said he hoped the industry was not brought to a close, but acknowledged some areas should be tightened. "I'm aware there are a bunch of retailers who don't really know what they are doing and just sell them to make the money," he said. "I am concerned about the selling in dairies ... that could be contributing to any kind of gateway into drugs. Detective Senior Sergeant Dave Long, of the Christchurch police drug squad, said police had never dealt with any cases of party pill outlets selling illegal drugs, but he would not discount it. "I can certainly see the potential for it. I cannot discount the possibility that some people who have got outlets deemed to be legal could take the opportunity to sell illegal substances to willing customers that come into their establishment. "I'm not saying necessarily the owner would know it's happening, but the people working their could be selling it." Research has shown there is a link between legal party pill use and illicit drugs. A recent study conducted by Massey University researchers found 97.2 per cent of legal party pill users said they used other substances in the past year - 60% had used cannabis, 21% had used ecstasy and 16% had used amphetamines.