All legal highs face ban
Palmerston North MP and Labour's associate health spokesman Iain Lees-Galloway has welcomed the Government's move to ban legal highs within two weeks.
However, he questioned the timing of Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne's announcement that emergency legislation would be introduced and passed under urgency when Parliament resumed next week.
The news came a day before Labour was due to announce its own policy to remove synthetic cannabis from the shelves immediately.
"This is obviously what Labour wanted to do. We want to see these untested drugs off the shelf immediately," he said.
"It was an error to leave the untested drugs on the shelf while the approval process was being established and it is good that the Government has finally seen sense."
Dunne said all synthetic drugs would be pulled off the shelves within two weeks, until individual testing had proven each brand was "low-risk".
There had been a substantial reduction in the number of products and outlets, but the National Poisons Centre and Centre for Adverse Reactions Monitoring continued to receive reports of severe adverse reactions.
Labour was set to release its own policy on synthetic cannabis today.
Leader David Cunliffe said earlier yesterday Labour would also be seeking to introduce a total ban on psychoactive substances until testing had proven they were relatively safe.
Lees-Galloway said it was clear the Government had reacted to opposition parties saying they were prepared to announce their own policies.
"Clearly, the Government has failed to act until they realised that they were going to be left behind on this issue and they quickly scrambled to put something together, but the truth is they haven't been listening to our communities."
Dunne's announcement thrilled Shepherd's Rest and Palmerston North Street Van co-ordinator Lew Findlay, who is also a city councillor. "About bleeding time," Findlay said. "The whole country wants it stopped and [Dunne's] opened his eyes at last."
He said synthetic cannabis was worse than anything around in terms of its effects on individuals and families.
Findlay was concerned that people would stockpile in the fortnight before the ban came into force.
"There's no question it will go underground, but for normal people it will be harder to get hold of."
However, once the supply dried up there would be many addicted people crying out for help.
"I hope the Government's going to fund that as well."
Results from this year's Global Drug Survey, conducted in partnership with Fairfax Media, found almost 4 per cent of synthetic cannabis users sought emergency medical treatment.
More than a quarter of those were admitted to hospital.