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Misuse Of Drugs (Classification Of Fantasy) Speech

28 March 2002 Speech Notes

Misuse Of Drugs (Classification Of Fantasy) Order 2001

Delivered by Health Minister Hon Annette King on behalf of Hon Tariana Turia

Mr Speaker, I rise to move that under section 4A of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975, this House approve the Misuse of Drugs (Classification of Fantasy) Order 2001.

This Order will make the dangerous range of substances known as Fantasy, controlled drugs under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975. This will make it illegal for the average person to possess, produce, manufacture, sell, supply, import, or export these dangerous substances.

Fantasy is the first substance to be considered under the more efficient and evidence-based drug classification procedure that Parliament enacted in late 2000.

Sadly, all too often we have heard of people being admitted to accident and emergency wards with life-threatening overdoses from these substances.

The new drug classification process requires drugs to be classified according to the ‘risk of harm’ they pose to people. I am pleased with the rigorous evidence-based process that has been undertaken to assess the risk of harm from Fantasy – and hence help determine what Schedule in the Act is most appropriate.

The risk of harm that these substances posed was considered by the Expert Advisory Committee on Drugs, which considered technical information under a number of criteria as specified in the Act.

Such criteria included the effects of the drug, the evidence of abuse, the risks to public health, the potential for dependence and death from these substances, and relevant international experience.

The Order proposes that Fantasy be classified in Class B1 of the Misuse of Drugs Act, which is at the top of the middle Schedule of the Act. This sends a clear signal regarding the high risk of harm that Fantasy poses.

The Committee noted that classifying Fantasy in B1, as opposed to B2 or B3, would mean greater restrictions on these substances.

Class B1 also gives the Police wider search and seizure powers than drugs in B2 and B3. But, such wider powers also apply to drugs in the lower Schedule (C1 – such as Cannabis) and those in the higher Schedule (A – such as heroin). They are not unique to B1.

It was vital that the Committee’s advice was supported by sound evidence, and I agree with the advice provided to me. As with many illegal drugs, these substances are highly controversial and attract much publicity and scrutiny.

I welcome such scrutiny. A key benefit from the new drug classification process is that we now have a mechanism to further enable the provision of accurate and evidence-based information to the public.

I was very keen to ensure that the Expert Committee’s report was made public as soon as possible, and the public has every opportunity to read the comprehensive nature of the report. I will actively encourage this for all future drugs considered.

It is absolutely fundamental that accurate and objective information about the risks of drugs is produced, along with key harm minimisation messages.

To this end, I am pleased that the Ministry of Health is planning to amend its Dance Party Guidelines to include Fantasy information, to complement the information on other dance party drugs such as methamphetamine (speed) and Ecstasy.

I would now like to briefly summarise relevant Clauses in the Order:
Clause 2 notes that a second Order in Council is required to bring this Order into force. The second Order will specify the date that first Order will come into force.

Clause 3 details the specific wording to be inserted into the Act that will effectively make Fantasy a Class B1 controlled drug. The main point of interest is that more technical wording is needed than simply inserting the word “Fantasy” into the Act. Fantasy is a common term used to cover a range of different but structurally similar substances, which can all convert into the main substance, ‘GHB’, once in the human body.

Therefore, Clause 3 seeks a balance between capturing as many of the GHB-related substances as possible – including those that maybe invented in the future – but also not casting the net so wide as to unnecessarily capture substances with legitimate uses and no potential use as recreational drugs.

Because of the technical nature of this Order a ‘plain English’ explanatory note is included to advise people of the Order’s general effect.

I would like to commend the members of the Health Select Committee for their timely deliberations on the Order. Under the direction of Judy Keall, the Committee has provided a rigorous scrutiny of the Order while under a tight timeframe.

I am satisfied that this process goes a long way towards ensuring a sound decision is made. I also welcome the Regulations Review Committee’s recent consideration of the Order.

As Minister of Health, I am committed to minimising the harm associated with drugs in our community. This Order is a step towards achieving this goal.

While Fantasy is the first drug considered by the House under the new process, there is still much work to be done – both to speed up the process further, while ensuring evidence-based decision making, and to consider new drugs.

I will be working with my officials to make sure that the lessons learnt this time are used to ensure a timely progression for other drugs needing to be put through the new classification process.

Accordingly, I move that the House approve this Order.

Thank you Mr Speaker.

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