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Anderton seeks to upgrade "Ecstasy" classification

Sunday 23 May 2004
Media release

Anderton seeks to upgrade "Ecstasy" classification

Associate Health Minister Jim Anderton said today that he will seek his Cabinet colleagues' support to reclassify MDMA, commonly known as "Ecstasy” or ‘E,” as a Class B1 controlled drug, up from Class B2 at present.

"I have accepted the recommendations of the Expert Advisory Committee on Drugs to reclassify Ecstasy in order to better reflect the increasing risk of harm it poses to New Zealand," the Progressive leader said.

"I am determined to prevent the expansion of the hard drug market in New Zealand and the reclassification I am seeking is a step toward that goal, “ he said.

A B1 classification allows police officers to search and seize without a warrant which means that police officers will be able to take immediate action when they suspect drug-related offending involving the drug, the Progressive leader said.

A penalty of up to 14 years' imprisonment for importation, manufacture and supply remains unchanged under the new classification.

Jim Anderton said he has also accepted the EACD's recommendation that the current five gram presumption of supply for Ecstasy be extended to better ensure all forms of this drug are caught.

Presumption of supply for an illicit drug means that if an individual has five grams or more in his or her possession there is a legal presumption that they are suppliers and this provides a wider net for catching more suppliers of the drug.

There have been three Ecstasy related deaths since 1998 and New Zealand drug surveys indicate that there has been an increase in Ecstasy use.

"In 2002, Police and Customs seized 248,034 Ecstasy tablets, compared with 83,448 in 2001. This rise in illegal imported drugs is due to an increased targeting of New Zealand by international crime syndicates.

Jim Anderton became Associate Health Minister responsible for the National Drug Policy after the July 2002 general election.

Issues that the EACD considered when assessing the classification of MDMA or Ecstasy included:

- Sharply rising prevalence of MDMA use and importation into New Zealand;
- Mounting evidence that Ecstasy-type drugs have a neurotoxic effect;
- No conclusive evidence that MDMA has any therapeutic application;
- MDMA seems likely to be proven to be moderately dependence-producing
- Worrying links between New Zealand’s MDMA market and organised crime
- Increasing number of cases of attempted MDMA manufacture in New Zealand;

The Expert Advisory Committee on Drug's recommendations on MDMA will be posted on the National Drug Policy website www.ndp.govt.nz


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