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Regulation, not prohibition, urged for party pills

9 February, 2005

Regulation, not prohibition, urged for party pills

The New Zealand Drug Foundation today urged parliament's Health Select Committee to support the creation of a fourth schedule to the Misuse of Drugs Act.

The Drug Foundation's executive director Ross Bell addressed today's select committee hearings into the Supplementary Order Paper (SOP) put forward by Associate Health Minister Jim Anderton, saying the move should help control emerging 'legal highs' which are not currently regulated.

"Last year the Government took advice that these products should not be classed illegal drugs, but should instead be tightly regulated," said Mr Bell. "We welcome the proposed fourth schedule which establishes those regulations.

"The new schedule represents an opportunity to restrict the sale of party pills by establishing age limits, controlling marketing and ensuring that adequate information and health warnings are placed on the containers.

"At the moment there is confusion about whether these products are regulated or not. Retailers currently sell these products as 'dietary supplements' but the Food Safety Authority has given advice that the dietary supplement regulations are inappropriate.

"That advice is irresponsible because it removes what little regulation there is for party pills. While dietary supplement regulations are not adequate for these products, the limited control they do provide is better than no control at all. We've asked the select committee to move urgently so Parliament can adopt the new schedule into the Misuse of Drugs Act."

Mr Bell told the committee that while a fourth schedule would provide flexibility in dealing with existing and emerging drugs, it was a good time to review the Act in its entirety.

"The new schedule gives the Misuse of Drugs Act greater flexibility by creating regulations for substances that shouldn't necessarily be banned. However, while the Drug Foundation is strongly supportive of that new flexibility, we do consider the Misuse of the Drugs Act is overdue for a complete review.

"There has been significant progress as New Zealand's drug legislation has become more evidence-based. However, the current Act has a patchwork of amendments, many of which were ad hoc responses to short-term public or political concerns," said Mr Bell.

"We believe that a review of the Act would help to deal with the issues around emerging drugs, and it's likely that we'll see many more substances like party pills in the future."

ENDS

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