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The passing of world leading legislation on new psychoactive substances takes New Zealand a big step closer to healthy drug law, the New Zealand Drug Foundation said today.

“The Psychoactive Substances Act is a world first at getting ahead of the ‘legal highs’ industry and taking control of the problems these substances cause,” New Zealand Drug Foundation Executive Director Ross Bell said.

The law, which passed its final reading in Parliament today, sets up a regulatory framework where manufacturers of products like synthetic cannabis will have to prove they are ‘low risk’ before the can be sold. It also imposes restrictions on who can make and sell the substances as well as measures to reduce availability.

“This is a cutting edge and pragmatic approach to new psychoactive substances which will reduce the harm they cause in our communities,” Mr Bell said.

“It is fantastic that the Government has listened to community concerns, acted on the evidence and built consensus on the best way to handle this complicated area of policy.”

Mr Bell said that the regulation of new psychoactive substances was the first step in the right direction for healthy drug law.

“New Zealand now needs to implement broader health-focussed changes to our outdated drug laws.”

The Psychoactive Substances Act key points

  • Sets up a legal framework for the testing, manufacture, sale and regulation of psychoactive products.
  • Includes health and harm minimisation in the purpose of the act.
  • Products will no longer be sold in dairies, grocery stores etc. People and businesses will need a license to sell the products.
  • Restrictions on advertising and marketing and the purchase age (18+)
  • Like alcohol, councils will have the option of developing local policies around where stores can be located.
  • Products will undergo rigorous clinical testing to determine whether they are ‘low risk’.
  • Clear rules around use of animal testing. Animal testing can only be used if there is no alternative.
  • If proven a product is ‘low risk’ of harm then as long as a person meets certain criteria (e.g. person of good repute, NZ citizen) a three year licence to sell that product can be granted.
  • Products which appear to cause more harm than clinical testing showed can be pulled from the market.
  • A register of all approved and unapproved products will be publically available.
  • A code of practice will be in place within 6 months.
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