Banned party pills penalties announced

JOHN HARTEVELT
Last updated 13:48 10/10/2012

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Possession of banned party pills will soon attract a $300 fine, the Government has announced.

Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne today announced details of a new regulatory regime for ''legal high'' manufacturers.

Under the new regime, manufacturers would have to pay fees and testing costs to have the substance passed as safe for sale by a regulatory watch-dog.

Manufacturers that flouted the rules would face sanctions of up to eight years in prison.

An application fee of about $180,000 would be required of manufacturers on top of $1m to $2m in testing costs for each product.

''This regime will be fundamentally based on reversing the onus of proof so those who profit from these products will have to prove they are as safe as is possible for psychoactive substances,'' Dunne said.

''We will no longer play the cat-and-mouse game of constantly chasing down substances after they are on the market.''

Penalties under the new regime would include up to eight years in prison for importing, manufacturing, supplying or possession with intent to supply analogues of controlled drugs that come under the Misuse of Drugs Act, and up to two years for import, manufacture, supply or possession with intent to supply unapproved substances.

The regime, which was expected to come in to force by the middle of next year, would also include spot fines of $300 for personal possession of an unapproved product and a minimum purchase age for approved products of 18.

The fine for personal possession would not imply a criminal offence.

"What we are trying to do is actually protect young people, not criminalise them and thereby jeopardise their job and travel prospects. The approach we are taking is similar to that used with alcohol infringements," Dunne said.

Advertising would be banned, except at the point of sale, and dairies would not be allowed to sell the products.

Approved substances would also have to include a label listing their active ingredients, the phone number for the National Poisons Centre and contact details for the product's New Zealand manufacturer or supplier.

''To date, there has been no ingredient information, so no one who buys these products has the first clue what is in them, which is as ridiculous as it is dangerous and irresponsible," Dunne said.

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