The announcement of changes to the Psychoactive Substances Act to remove currently approved 'legal highs' from sale is disappointing due to its political nature, and will lead to stockpiling and black-market sales the New Zealand Drug Foundation said.
"The law already allows for the removal of psychoactive products from the market if it can be shown they are causing harm. This is just politicians playing politics at a time when we need a measured response to a very complex issue," New Zealand Drug Foundation Executive Director Ross Bell said.
"Rather than rush an amendment through Parliament under urgency, the Psychoactive Substance Act can be used to identify the products which are causing harm and these can be removed from sale.
"The National Poisons Centre and the Centre for Adverse Reaction Monitoring are collecting data on which products are causing harm. Using their information we can ascertain which products are the ones that are causing such concern in our communities."
Mr Bell said that using the law as it was originally intended would avoid the negative effects that an immediate ban would result in.
"As we've seen before with previous bans, retailers hold firesales for products and consumers stockpile those. There's an added risk that people will binge, or use higher quantities prior to the ban. Predictably, many of these products will make it onto the black market, over which the government has little control.
"This is disappointing considering we reached an uncontroversial political consensus on the way forward only 10 months ago."
Mr Bell said that the Government now has an obligation to support those who chose to stop using psychoactive products and to closely monitor the soon to be unapproved substances.
"Extra support needs to be made available to the people who chose to stop using psychoactive products as the ban comes into place," Mr Bell said.
"It is important that we help these people out and ensure that they can access detox and help services.
"Ensuring these people get help will also ensure that demand for these products is lowered over all."
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