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Anderton: 2nd Reading on Misuse of Drugs Bill

09 June 2005

Anderton: 2nd Reading on Misuse of Drugs Amendment (No 3) Bill

I move, that the Misuse of Drugs Amendment Bill (No 3) be now read a second time.

The Bill, with amendments moved by the Health Select Committee, updates our law relating to the prevention of drug abuse and makes it more responsive to changes in illicit drug trends in New Zealand.

In particular the Bill allows:

- Presumption of supply matters to be amended by Order-in-Council, subject to the affirmative resolution procedure;

- Sets the presumption-of-supply amount for methamphetamine at five grams, rather than the present default amount of 56 grams;

- Removes the ability for the classification level of a controlled drug to be decreased, or a classification to be removed by Order-in-Council and the affirmative resolution procedure;

- Adds a Ministry of Justice official to the Expert Advisory Committee on Drugs;

- Creates new offences of importing and exporting precursor substances – ingredients like ephedrine and pseudo-ephedrine for the manufacture of dangerous drugs such as methamphetamine;

- Creates new powers of search and seizure without warrant for ephedrine and pseudoephedrine;

- Allows controlled deliveries of precursor substances;

- Moves the defence to the offence of possessing a needle or syringe from the regulations to the Principal Act, and reverses the onus of proof to the prosecution – this is a preventative health measure.

- Adds a new "restricted substances" part to the legislation, and

- Regulates BZP – so-called party pills - as a restricted substance.

The Health Select Committee has worked hard in its consideration of this legislation, especially with regard to the new restricted substances part of this Bill that will immediately regulate the substance BZP, commonly found in party pills and restrict its sale and supply to those aged over 18 years.

It will also allow, in the future, for the potential regulation of similar substances as Parliament deems appropriate and based on evidence as it comes to hand.

I would like to thank all members of the Health Committee for that valuable work.

I know that it was not straightforward and that complex issues were raised in the course of their consideration.

I know because I was invited to meet with them to discuss those concerns.

I was happy to do this and was able to offer some solutions to help ensure the smooth and timely passage of this important legislation.

I am pleased to see that they saw fit to accept many of those solutions, for example, actually scheduling BZP as a restricted substance in the Bill itself.

However, I also note the committee has decided to narrow the definition of substances to be covered by the new part as members felt that existing legislation, rather than the new restricted substances schedule, could be more appropriately used to regulate substances such as butane which are subject to abuse by some of our young people.

I have no particular problem with this approach and to this end have asked my ministerial colleagues to set a high priority on investigating how existing legislation could be used.

If those investigations show that we have relevant existing legislation then we should be using it and as soon as possible.

However, whether or not we can use existing legislation is not clear-cut.

Members are likely to have read in the Press a report on a novelty product being sold in Christchurch recently which contained a potentially fatal mixture of butane and propane which some one decided could be used for intoxication.

This led to some young kids buying it and suffering potentially serious side-effects from its use.

My office sought advice from the Minister of Consumer Affairs about possible action under existing legislation given that this product is being sold as a novelty, for use at rugby and other sports games.

I have yet to receive formal advice on this matter.

Officials are also continuing to look at other relevant legislation because this Labour-Progressive government will act where it can to stop the misuse of potentially dangerous products.

Should the investigation into existing regulatory controls for this product and other substances result in showing that existing regulation is inadequate then I have also asked my colleagues to consider further legislation - either as a completely separate stand-alone Restricted Substances Act, as the Health Committee has suggested, or perhaps in a form found in other jurisdictions.

The United Kingdom, Australia, and the United States have specific legislation that make it an offence for a retailer to supply or offer to supply to a person under 18 years of age a substance where there is reasonable cause to believe that the substance is going to be used for intoxication.

I am determined that the problem of volatile substance abuse is not put in the too-hard basket. Parliament is responsible for studying how best we should act and then to act.

Coroners around the country have been asking for action as they deal with the tragic deaths of vulnerable young people from this form of abuse.

I am sure everyone in Parliament agrees that we must collectively respond, where we possibly can, to the community's demand for action.

ENDS

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