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New Zealand to Ban Synthetic Marijuana This Week

In a shift from an April decision to regulate rather than prohibit synthetic cannabinoids, the government of New Zealand's ruling National Party has moved instead to ban them by the end of this week. It is rushing to amend the Misuse of Drugs Amendments Bill to criminalize some 43 fake weed products currently on store shelves.

Synthetic cannabinoids like Spice will be banned in Kiwiland this week. (image via Wikimedia)
The move will create an emergency 12-month ban while the government crafts a detailed response to the Law Commission's May report on psychoactive substances, which noted that under current New Zealand laws, "a psychoactive substance can be manufactured, imported, and sold without restriction until it is proven harmful and is either regulated or prohibited." The commission called for that burden of proof to be reversed, so that the industry would be required to prove its products are safe.

"We are going to create temporary class drug orders that will allow me to place a 12-month ban on these currently unregulated psychoactive substances and any new ones that come along," Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne announced. "The bottom line is that these products are generally untested and we do not know the long-term effects of their use and we are not about to just let it all happen and pick up damaged young people at the end."

The cabinet would be "looking carefully at crafting permanent legislation in the foreseeable future," said Prime Minister John Key. "We are not going to stand by while these substances are constantly being created and being made available for sale," he added.

Synthetic cannabinoids, or "cannibimimetics," in the Law Commission's parlance, are synthetic compounds that mimic the action of THC, producing highs similar to that of natural marijuana. The compounds are sprayed on herbal material and sold in corner stores under names like Spice and K2 in the US, although Kronic appears to be a favorite name in Australia and New Zealand.

Under the emergency action, fake marijuana will be carry the same penalties as Class C1 drugs such as marijuana, but mere possession of it will not be a criminal offense.

"We are sending a very strong message that we don't think there is any case for these drugs and we believe they should be taken off the marketplace and we are sending a message to young people that we don't want them taking them," Key said. "It's unacceptable to the government that a product that causes potentially lethal risks is available freely to our young people. If someone's in possession of the products for their own personal use, they could continue to legally use it."

The opposition Labor Party is also supporting the temporary ban. "The government needed to act, you can't have product out there with potentially damaging effects. You should ban the product until they can prove it's safe," party leader Phil Goff told TVNZ's Breakfast Show Monday morning.

But importer Matt Bowden, who seeks regulation of fake marijuana, warned that prohibition would lead to more potent drugs being developed and would create a black market and empower organized crime.

"Prohibition is counterproductive. It's a failed policy which does nothing for consumers," he said. "A black market happens when you make something illegal and there is a high consumer demand. Right now they are available for a couple of weeks, consumers will be stockpiling them.''

Another interested party, Chris Fowlie of the Hempstore, which sells the products, told TV ONE that despite sensational reports in the media, there are no actual scientific, peer-reviewed studies that back up the sometimes lurid accusations of harm.

"Well, they aren't making it up, but they aren't peer reviewed, so for all we know they could be talking about the same person complaining many times, it could be one particular brand causing all the problems, we don't know, so until we have those studies, it's guess work," he said. "The law does say that the classification of drugs does have to be based on evidence, that's built into the misuse of drugs act and Peter Dunne is ignoring that."

Fowlie predicted that the ban will create new problems. "Firstly you will see retailers dumping stock, we for one will be having a big sale to get rid of everything we've got, and you will see new products come out immediately after the ban."

New Zealand
Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
Looking for the easiest way to join the anti-drug war movement? You've found it!

Dear New Zealand

Legalize the substance that: Unlike water, aspirin, and oxygen, causes NO OVERDOSES, NO ADDICTIONS (of a physical nature), and NO DEATHS. It will be a move you will not ever regret. Why? That would be because PROHIBITION CAN NOT, DOES NOT, and WILL NOT WORK.

                                                           Thank you for your time,

                                                            Responsible Citizens of the World

p.s. " The government's line is that the use of marihuana leads to more dangerous drugs. The fact is that the lack of marihuana leads to dangerous drugs." - Dr. David Smith /  Haight Ashbury Free Clinic

p.p.s. If anyone doubts the above quote, look how the drug ICE (methamphetamine) has ravaged the Hawaiian Islands since the marijuana eradication programs. One a life enhancer, the other a life eraser.


Are the makers undertaking safety studies?

Re: regulating new synthetic drugs

This sounds amazingly close to how drug use would be regulated and controlled under a rational and humane drug policy. New drugs would be tested and researched for a year before deciding whether they are safe enough to make available, then the government would let people have access to the safest drugs of each type (stimulant, sedative, halllucinogen, etc) - and also under this approach, use and possession are not offences. Now if New Zealand and other countries took this rational pragmatic approach to all drugs, we would have the best drug policy we can have: controlled availability in a regulated but free market.

If a drug is required to be proven dangerous in New Zealand..

If a drug is required to be proven dangerous in New Zealand before it is banned,  then why is Cannabis (The safest therapeutic substance known to man) illegal there?   Apparently, the gazillion dollar fake war on drugs industries do have that much control worldwide... and we're all f'd.  *Sigh*

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