Synthetic drugs may return in weeks
Legal high producers and retailers are scrambling to get their products back into the market.
Retailers had to have the products off their shelves on July 18 when the new Psychoactive Substances Act came into force.
But from the day the new legislation started, importers, manufacturers and distributors were given 28 days to apply for interim licences to get the products back on sale.
Medical safety authority Medsafe had received about 60 applications for product approvals and licences just five days after the act took effect, group manager Dr Stewart Jessamine says.
Dairies, service stations and convenience stores are banned from selling the products but specialty stores can apply for the interim licences.
Interim approval allows sales to continue while the products undergo testing, Dr Jessamine says.
Applicants must show the products have been submitted for testing to prove they are low risk.
''This has been made very clear throughout the development of this regime.''
The regulations are designed to make sure only products that pose no more than a low risk of harm can continue to be sold, he says.
''It is important to note that the authority has the power to stop a product being sold immediately, if concerns arise.''
Already-banned products such as Kronic and K2 will not be allowed but any that were on sale within the three months before the act took effect can be applied for.
It costs $10,000 to apply for an interim approval and $500 for an application for a licence to research, manufacture or sell the products.
''The product must also be able to state that it is posing no more than a low risk of harm based on current information,'' Dr Jessamine says.
As well as getting psychoactive products out of dairies and convenience stores, Dr Jessamine says the transition period aims to collect information about what the product and retail market for psychoactive substances actually looks like ''and how we might best manage its risks into the future''.
Manurewa Local Board member Toa Greening says he was shocked to discover the interim licensing arrangements could see the products back on the shelves of some stores in just weeks.
''The interim licensing arrangement gives no time for local councils to implement location, density and sensitive site restrictions,'' he says.
''It really undermines the whole low-risk legalised psychoactive substance goals of the act.''
Websites selling the products have set up links for their customers to apply to the Ministry of Health for interim licensing, Mr Greening says.
The Manukau Courier contacted the PartyPills.net.nz and LegalHighs.co.nz websites which are promoting interim licensing applications but they refused to comment.
Manurewa MP Louisa Wall was one of the select committee members overseeing the new act.
She says it gives everyone involved in the manufacture, sale and production of psychoactive substances a 28-day period to go through a licensing regime.
''That is happening at the moment.''
But producers have to immediately start a process of verification that their goods are safe, she says.
''At the end of the day the whole intention of the legislation is to ensure that any products that are sold are of low risk and pose no harm to the community.
Ms Wall says she will be continuing to look into the placement of Manurewa's legal high store because it is not appropriate in the heart of the community.