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The Drug Foundation welcomed drug policy minister Jim Anderton’s announcement today to consult with the wider community before changing the legal status of party pills.

The minister’s announcement follows recent advice given by the Expert Advisory Committee on Drugs (EACD) to reschedule BZP-based party pills from a Restricted Substance to Class C1 under the Misuse of Drugs Act, the same classification as cannabis plant. The EACD have analysed research and reports on party pills and concluded they pose a moderate risk of harm.

“The Minister has demonstrated admirable consistency on this issue, resisting pressure from all sides to make a hasty decision about party pills. He first listened to his advisory group by creating a new drug classification for party pills, and funded world-first research to get a better understanding about the risks party pills pose. We congratulate him for that,” said Ross Bell, executive director.

“We are pleased he will consult with the wider community before making a recommendation to Parliament. While we have a high regard for the role of the EACD in ensuring good evidence-based drug policy, we remain sceptical that their recommendation to ban will reduce the risks posed by party pills,” he said.

“The truth is, regardless of the legal status of drugs, people still use them and harms are still caused. This is true whether drugs are legal like alcohol and tobacco, the two biggest drug problems in New Zealand, or illegal like cannabis, a drug tried by more than half of all New Zealanders,” said Ross Bell.

The Drug Foundation has previously stated its preference for tighter regulations over party pills, such as total advertising bans, price controls, dosage limits, quality and hygiene standards, and limits on places of sale.

“This is not a black or white issue; drug issues never are. We should persist with tighter and improved regulations over party pills because they allow the government greater control over availability, potency, quality and price of pills than an outright ban could,” he said.

The Drug Foundation is asking the Minister to release all advice and research on party pills, saying that much of what was provided to the EACD consists of confidential and interim reports, which should be made public to better inform the wider community during the minister’s consultation process.

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