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Psychoactive Substances Bill – The Priority is Public Safety

Hon Todd McClay

Associate Minister of Health

27 June 2013

Media Statement

Psychoactive Substances Bill – The Priority is Public Safety

Associate Health Minister Todd McClay unequivocally stated that his priority in progressing the Psychoactive Substances Bill , which commenced its Second Reading in Parliament today, was public safety.

“It is worth taking the time to remind ourselves what this Bill is about. This Bill is squarely about safety and will ensure that the onus will be on anyone wanting to produce a psychoactive product to show it poses no more than a low risk of harm” said Mr McClay.

The Bill proposes tight controls around the availability of products that do meet the low risk threshold. From the day of enactment, neighbourhood dairies will no longer be entitled to stock any such products. Nor will sales to those under-18 years of age be permitted.

“These and other restrictions, including restricting where advertising can occur, provide absolute certainty that the Government is serious about controlling these substances and preventing harm.”

The Government proposes to keep the offence for possession of an unapproved product, or possession of any psychoactive substance by an individual under 18 years.

“I know a lot of submitters wanted no personal possession offence, and I understand their view, however, I don’t think recognising that there still needs to be some personal responsibility taken is a bad thing.”

“I can assure those who argued against a personal possession provision that no one will receive a criminal conviction for possession – it will be an infringement offence only. Neither I, nor my colleagues, are interested in establishing a new class of criminal for possession of these products.”

In response to a number of strong submissions made to the Health committee, the Bill now contains provisions allowing local authorities to restrict outlet locations and density, similar to the provisions in the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act.

The Bill also encompasses advice from the Ministry of Health’s interim expert committee regarding animal testing. The Committee’s advice was that some animal testing would initially be necessary to ensure the risk of products was accurately assessed, but that there were some alternative tests that could be used immediately, and they would continue to work to identify other alternatives.

“After receiving this advice, I asked the Health Committee to consider an amendment to the Bill that would put controls on animal testing and put a duty on the Expert Advisory Committee to actively seek alternatives.“

“I am very pleased to say that the committee members agreed unanimously to those amendments, which are section 11A of the revised Bill. The Expert Advisory Committee will actively seek alternatives to animal tests, and again, I want to make it clear that there will be no animal testing where there is a suitable alternative” said Mr McClay.

The timing of the Bill is also significant as the government undertakes a review of the National Drug Policy, its guiding policy for minimising drug-related harm in the community.

“Whilst there will be discussions and consultation held to discuss what else can be done in this field, starting with a discussion forum tomorrow, the restrictions placed on psychoactive substances through this Bill will form an important component of New Zealand’s policy on drugs for the future.”

“I am aware that drug policy is a particularly polarising area, and I have no doubt that in the course of the National Drug Policy’s development, a variety of interested parties will float a wide range of ideas, many of which may not be acceptable to me or this government. However, if thinking outside the box achieves even one promising proposal that will reduce the dependency and harm that comes with drug use, then I believe it is worth the effort” Mr McClay said.

While the Ministry of Health will be reporting back on progress on the National Drug Policy review later this year, the fast-tracked Psychoactive Substances Bill is expected to complete its third and final reading on 4 July 2013.

ENDS

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