New Zealand law permits 'low risk' designer drugs
Stoners, pill-poppers and drug regulators everywhere: turn your eyes to New Zealand. The country looks set to adopt new laws permitting the limited sale of some designer drugs for recreational purposes. The legislation is the first in the world to regulate new recreational drugs based on scientific evidence of their risk of harm.
Under the proposed laws, which were recommended to be passed with amendments by a parliamentary committee yesterday, manufacturers will be able to sell any currently unregulated psychoactive substance if they can demonstrate it has a "low risk of harm". But they also allow for any psychoactive substance not already regulated to be prohibited from sale until approved by a new regulator.
The bill was designed to restrict the manufacture and supply of synthetic or designer drugs like synthetic cannabis, "bath salts", meow meow and other new chemicals, while allowing the sale of products that meet safety requirements.
Recreational drugs are a headache for regulators because as soon as one is banned, a new unregulated one is created. Europe saw the creation of 24 new synthetic drugs in 2009, 41 in 2010 and 73 in 2012, according to European law enforcement agency Europol.
"The new law will put the onus on industry to demonstrate their products are low-risk, using a similar testing process to pharmaceuticals," says Ross Bell from the New Zealand Drug Foundation in Wellington, an organisation that campaigns to reduce drug harms. A new regulatory authority will be established in government, alongside an independent expert technical committee that will advise the regulatory authority on products submitted for approval.
Onus on industry
"The neat thing about this is that it says to the industry, 'we'll let you create a market for your products, but you have to play by the rules and not do stupid things like label substances as 'plant food' or 'bath salts'," says Bell. He says that while everyone else is still trying to ban every new drug that comes along, New Zealand is the first to try to regulate them.
Welcoming the parliamentary committee's recommendations, associate minister of health Todd McClay said the legislation "will bring relief to the thousands of parents, employers and communities that have battled the destructive impacts of legal highs".
"Our existing control mechanisms operate too slowly to allow the government to adequately respond to the harm caused by some of these substances," McClay told New Scientist.
David Nutt at Imperial College London, former chair of the UK's Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, says New Zealand's move is a good example of the start of evidence-based policy. "My hope is this will lead to a major change in the international laws," he says.
"This comes at a time when drug prohibition is collapsing," says Alex Wodak, former director of alcohol and drug services at St Vincent's Hospital in Sydney, Australia. Wodak points to cannabis legalisation in two states in the US and moves in Uruguay and Bolivia to weaken drug bans.
He says he expects prohibition to continue to decline, although it will be a slow process. "Global drug prohibition took about 80 years to construct, so I would not be surprised if the post-prohibition policy also takes a while to build."
There will be some obvious inconsistencies between drugs regulated under the new laws and those banned by old laws, Bell and Wodak admit. Cannabis will continue to be banned, but a synthetic cannabis could potentially be legalised. "You have to start somewhere – may as well start with synthetic drugs," says Wodak. Bell says the moves are part of a wider examination of New Zealand's 38-year-old drug laws, and the government has indicated that existing bans on other substances may be reconsidered in the future.McClay says there are a couple of reasons why New Zealand is the first to regulate designer drugs in this way. "It may be that New Zealand's size lends itself to being able to respond quickly and emphatically." But he also says New Zealand has had a particular problem with these kinds of drugs.
Bell agrees. "New Zealand has had these drugs for longer than other places." A market for designer drugs started early there because substances like ecstasy and methamphetamines were hard for New Zealanders to get hold of.
"This is one of the more pragmatic responses in the world to new psychoactive substances, and it could provide a model for others to follow," Bell says.
Volgens mij waren hier al eerdere berichten over geplaatst, maar goed om te horen dat ze hier nog steeds mee doorgaan. Het enige wat ik niet goed begrijp is, of deze rc's net zo grondig als alle andere 'echte' medicijnen getest moeten worden, want dan gaat dit beleid uiteraard niet werken, want er is niemand die al die onderzoeken gaat betalen om een paar pillen te verkopen en mocht er een dusdanig winstoogmerk ontstaan dan zal Big Pharma daar zelf wel op in spelen.
Is er iemand die iets meer weet over deze voorstellen? Want ik vind het idee goed, mits ook goed uitgevoerd..