New Zealand may allow some designer drugs

Courtesy of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency

Courtesy of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency

Producers of designer drugs in New Zealand may soon be able to legally sell their wares – if they can prove they have a “low risk of harm”.

The law, which was recommended for passage last week, would affect drugs often referred to as “legal highs”, because they often are marked as incense or plant food, and includes synthetic cannabis (e.g., spice or K2) and bath salts, The New Scientist reports. If approved, New Zealand would be the first country with such a law.

The law would restrict the sale of drugs that don’t meet safety requirements while also prohibiting the sale of unregulated psychoactive substances until they’ve been approved.

“The bill aims to restrict the importation, manufacture, and supply of psychoactive substances unless authorized by a regulator, while allowing the sale of products that meet safety and manufacturing requirements,” the Psychoactive Substances Bill reads.

Approval would only be given to “finished, packaged psychoactive products”. The bill also would create a new regulatory group within the Ministry of Health to oversee approvals along with an independent Expert Advisory Committee.

Synthetic drugs often are difficult to regulate because those who make the drugs simply change the active ingredient to one not prohibited under the law. In Europe, the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) found 73 synthetic drugs last year, up from only 49 the year before. In total, 84 synthetic cannabinoids are being monitored.

Difficulty regulating the drugs has only grown with their popularity. In recent years, these drugs have become increasingly popular among teens and young adults – in 2009, U.S. Poison Control Centers in 41 states reported only 13 calls related to spice. In 2011, it had reached 6,959 calls.


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