Pubdate: Thu, 11 Oct 2012
Source: Nelson Mail, The (New Zealand)
Copyright: 2012 Fairfax New Zealand Limited
Author: Anna Pearson


New laws to regulate "legal highs" are being welcomed by a Nelson 
woman who says her son is addicted to a synthetic cannabis product.

The laws, announced by Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne 
yesterday, will see people fined $300 for possessing banned party 
pills, and dairies barred from selling them.

Manufacturers will have to pay a $200,000 application fee and testing 
costs of up to $2 million to have the substance passed as safe for 
sale by a regulatory watchdog.

Testing would take about two years and include clinical trials on 
humans, meaning producers would have to prove the pills were safe 
before they hit the shelves.

There will be a minimum purchase age of 18 and prison time for 
manufacturers who flout the new rules, expected to be in place by the 
middle of next year.

Mr Dunne said: "We will no longer play the cat-and-mouse game of 
constantly chasing down substances after they are on the market."

A woman who contacted the Nelson Mail this week, and did not want to 
be named, said her son in his early 20s was addicted to a synthetic 
cannabis product called K2, after smoking it for more than a year, 
and was trying to "come off".

"It wasn't obvious to him that he had a problem until we told him to 
get help or we would put him on the street. He attended his first 
drug clinic meeting yesterday, and now has some insight into how the 
synthetic cannabis has affected him."

The woman said Mr Dunne's announcement was "a great start and a great 
strategy, but it concerns me that it's not until next year".

Synthetic cannabis found in some Nelson dairies, "next to the 
lollies", was too easily available. Its marketing was aimed at "young 
ones - much like alcopops", with chocolate and berry flavours.

"There is addiction associated with smoking this stuff. One person 
told me of the sweet taste that nothing could satisfy, not even pot. 
The sooner it is out of dairies and off the market the better," she said.

Drug Foundation executive director Ross Bell said the strict controls 
would go some way towards stopping the "merry-go-round" of highs 
being banned then replaced with tweaked versions.

"We know that the industry employs very clever chemists who can cook 
up a new chemical to get around the rules," he said.

Mr Dunne said advertising would be banned, except at the point of 
sale, and approved substances would have to include a label listing 
active ingredients, the National Poisons Centre phone number and 
contact details for the product's New Zealand manufacturer or supplier.

Since August last year, 28 substances and more than 50 synthetic 
cannabis products have been taken off the market following the 
introduction of temporary class drug notices.

Products already on sale for more than six months will not be removed 
from shelves, but will still have to be tested.

The new rules are being welcomed by those who see the ill effects of 
legal highs at Nelson Hospital and the Nelson Marlborough Alcohol and 
Drug Clinic.

A senior doctor in the emergency department, Mark Reeves, said last 
year that one young person a week was ending up in Nelson Hospital 
with symptoms including anxiety, racing heart, abdominal pain, nausea 
and vomiting after smoking synthetic cannabis products.

He said yesterday that he welcomed the new regulatory regime, which 
seemed to be "a well-intentioned piece of legislation which attempts 
to decrease the availability of, and exposure to, untested and, as 
such, potentially harmful substances".

Carla Lane, a forensic addiction clinician and team leader for the 
Nelson Marlborough Alcohol and Drug Clinic, said young people were 
often introduced to legal highs with the expectation that they came 
with no risk or harm.

"BZP was legal for quite a period of time before people became aware 
of the huge mental health and physical costs of its use," she said.

Nelson Marlborough Alcohol and Drug Clinic manager Eileen Varley said 
a lot of clients first started using legal highs, before abusing 
alcohol and illegal drugs.

The new laws were "great", and she hoped some of the money from the 
testing process would go towards treatment.

Party pill industry expert Matt Bowden said manufacturers would pay 
to have their products tested as the costs involved were small 
compared with the industry's annual worth, estimated to be in the 
"hundreds of millions".

"The only businesses who will survive are those with a very high 
commitment to social responsibility," he said.

Jess Forward, a staff member at Gizmos in Bridge St, Nelson, said the 
store sold only one legal high called Magnum.

She said Gizmos had "quite a few regulars that do it properly, and 
are not stupid with it, but then you get the kids".

It was up to individuals to take responsibility for their actions, 
and use the products in moderation.

"It's the people that are silly that ruin it for everyone else."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom