National Statement to the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs
Hon Peter Dunne
Associate Minister of
National Statement to the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs
Monday, 11 March 2013
Mr Chairman and distinguished colleagues.
I thank you for the opportunity to address this 56th meeting of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs.
I represent the New Zealand delegation in my capacity as Associate Minister of Health and the Minister responsible for alcohol and drugs policy.
I am delighted to return to Vienna and to express New Zealand’s support for the work of the CND and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
New Zealand is a strong supporter of the drug conventions and our country takes its responsibility as a signatory to the conventions very seriously.
The round-tables and side events are a valuable opportunity to share information and enhance collaboration among Member States.
New psychoactive substances
New Zealand has a particular interest in the side event to this Commission, “New psychoactive substances: regional approaches and challenges”.
In this regard, I must also take this opportunity to congratulate the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime for the report by the Global SMART Programme on new psychoactive substances.
I know many countries share the problems New Zealand is facing with the on-going emergence of new psychoactive substances.
New Zealand will be pleased to co-sponsor the draft resolution from the United Kingdom, Australia, and Japan entitled ‘Enhancing international cooperation in the identification and reporting of new psychoactive substances’.
Technological advances and complicated supply chains have led to a situation where substances new to our country, and often nearly new to science, emerge on the market at a startling rate.
In New Zealand and elsewhere, these can slip through the regulatory net – to the extent that they can appear on the shelves of convenience stores and are often freely available over the Internet.
When thousands of people are using poorly understood chemicals, with unknown effects, it is not unreasonable to fear a public health disaster reminiscent of the thalidomide catastrophe.
Our Misuse of Drugs Act classifies illegal drugs according to the risk of harm they pose, as assessed by an expert committee.
It has become clear to us that no expert committee can reasonably be expected to keep up with the rapidly expanding world of new party drugs and so-called legal highs.
As quickly as a drug is classified, two or more can emerge.
As an interim measure, we have adopted an accelerated procedure that allows the government to temporarily ban a substance: something we now done for 33 substances and counting, mainly for variants of synthetic cannabis.
The result has also seen more than 50 products taken off the market in our country.
Our long-term solution is legislation I will take through our Parliament in the coming months.
The legislation proposes to ban all new psychoactive substances not currently regulated, but create a pathway to the market for substances that can be shown to pose no more than a low risk of harm.
This will end the game of cat and mouse currently being played between authorities and an irresponsible industry by immediately removing these drugs from the shelves.
Manufacturers and importers who wish to sell a new psychoactive product will first have to provide clinical data showing that their product does not pose undue risk to the people who use it, or to society.
Practically speaking, the approval process will be similar to the one required for medicines before they can be brought to the New Zealand market.
Finally, Mr Chairman and distinguished colleagues, I wish to thank you once again for the opportunity to participate in this meeting of the Commission.
On behalf of the New Zealand delegation, I look forward to the round-tables and the chance to work with many of you over the coming days.