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Dunne: all synthetic cannabis products to be banned

Hon Peter Dunne
Associate Minister of Health
Monday, 1 August 2011

Dunne: all synthetic cannabis products to be banned

Law to ban synthetic cannabis products will be in place by Friday, and all 43 current products are expected to be out of shops just over a week later, Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne announced today.

Cabinet has today approved amendments to the Misuse of Drugs Amendment Bill that will take Kronic and other synthetic cannabis products off the market for 12 months while the Government works on its detailed response to the Law Commission’s recent report, he said.

The Government has already signalled that it is looking at the Law Commission recommendation to reverse the onus of proof and require the industry to prove its products are safe.

The current Bill allowing the temporary bans is expected to pass into law this week, he said.

“We are going to create temporary class drug orders that will allow me to place a 12-month ban on these currently unregulated psychoactive substances and any new ones that come along.

“The bottom line is that these products are generally untested and we do not know the long-term effects of their use and we are not about to just let it all happen and pick up damaged young people at the end,” Mr Dunne said.

He said the temporary class drug notices will be an interim measure which will mean the substances, although not Class C1 controlled drugs, will carry the same penalties as Class C1 drugs.

Notices will be prepared to cover all 43 synthetic cannabis products currently on the market as soon as the law is in place, and have them removed from sale.

Any new products will be dealt with as they arrive, Mr Dunne said.

From the date a temporary class drug order comes into force on a substance, the import, export, manufacture, supply and sale of the drug concerned will become illegal.

The notices will be able to be applied to particular synthetic cannabis products, or particular substances that may be in any given product.

“These products change frequently, and new ones are put on the market with a different ingredient or two. We will basically be able to capture them all.

Within the 12 months of a temporary class drug notice being placed on any substance, it will be assessed by a committee to be established for that purpose. The committee will assess risk of harm and recommend to the Health Minister whether a substance should be classified as a controlled drug or scheduled as a restricted substance, or remain unregulated.

Mr Dunne said the process around dealing with these substances has been complex and it was important that the Government get it right.

“Critics have pointed to faster responses overseas, but some of those laws are coming unstuck already, with new products coming on to the market that are not covered.

“We have addressed that here. If new products turn up and we are concerned about them, we will be able to put temporary class drugs notices on them straight away.

“The net will be cast as wide as it needs to be to protect young New Zealanders.

“This Bill and the legislation coming to reverse the onus of proof will prove better thought out and more comprehensive than much of the overseas law,” Mr Dunne said.

The Health Minister will have the power to issues temporary class drug notices by way of notice in the Gazette, and it will be possible to put new substances into the regime as they become available.

ENDS

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