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Bungled law behind public backlash over legal highs

Bungled law behind public backlash over legal highs

The public backlash against the Government’s attempt to regulate legal highs was inevitable after it bungled the implementation of the Psychoactive Substances Act, Labour’s Associate Health spokesperson Iain Lees-Galloway says.

“One of the biggest oversights was failing to consult with local councils about their role in regulating legal highs. If the select committee considering the law had been given adequate time it could have worked with Local Government New Zealand on ways it could be implemented. Instead the onus of regulating the location of legal high stores came as a bolt out of the blue for mayors and their councils.

“The Government has also failed to properly resource the Ministry of Health to implement the new law. Just six people have been assigned to the tasks of granting interim licences, monitoring complaints about products and stores, drawing up and consulting on new regulations, developing the approval process for testing legal highs and deciding which products need to be recalled.

“There are still products legally available that pose more than a low level of risk because the Ministry can neither process the complaints it receives nor make fast enough progress on establishing the approval regime with the limited resources it has.

“However, that shouldn’t stop people making complaints about products they have concerns about.

“The Government chose not to prioritise passing the Psychoactive Substances Act. When the temporary ban notices that got rid of products like Kronic and K2 were introduced in August 2011, National had two years to get the new law in place and to consult with communities about its implementation.

“But it waited until the last possible moment, only introducing the new legislation in February 2013. Astonishingly, the Bill then sat in Parliament until April 2013 before it received its First Reading, just four months before the temporary ban notices were due to run out.

“Labour warned Peter Dunne that rushing the legislation was a mistake and that Parliament would have to come back to this issue because the legislation was poorly drafted.

“Labour is committed to continuing the review of drug law carried out by the Law Commission. That will include introducing a replacement to the Misuse of Drugs Act, something that Peter Dunne promised to do in this term of Parliament but has failed to deliver,” Iain Lees-Galloway says.


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