OPINION: The Government's goal of supporting communities to prevent and reduce harm caused by legal highs is working, writes Eric Roy (National) in From the Beehive.
We've taken a market that was an unknown quantity and out of control and, in a staged approach, pared it back hugely and implemented strict and robust controls. These controls will continue to be enhanced and strictly applied.
When the Psychoactive Subtances Act came into force in July there was an immediate ban on sales from dairies or any sort of grocery store, petrol stations, or anywhere alcohol is sold. Products cannot be sold to anyone under 18.
We have already seen the number of products legally available reduced from 200-300 to 28. The number of retailers has been cut from an estimated 3500 to around 110 with temporary licences. Several retailers have just been banned from trading after breaching temporary licence conditions.
Not using legal highs is always the safest option for anyone. However, the new law ensures that people who choose to seek out "legal highs" are not harmed by unregulated substances.
The onus of proof is now on producers and suppliers, not the government, to prove their products are "very low risk".
This denies backyard chemists the opportunity to beat the law by simply altering the chemical makeup of their drugs and sends a message to the community and producers and suppliers of psychoactive substances these products are harmful and won't be tolerated unless they can be proven to be of "very low risk".
Police report a drop in criminal behaviour blamed on synthetic drugs and the National Poisons Centre has seen a drop in the reporting of adverse reactions.
The Psychoactive Substances Regulatory Authority, set up under the act, is not simply rubber- stamping applications. It has a risk assessment framework to determine which products receive interim approval and which are declined for interim licences.
High-profile Kronic, Kryptonite, and K2 products are all banned.
All 28 products with temporary approvals for sale will be further tested to ensure compliance as "very low risk" and, if they are found to have known harmful substances, they will immediately be removed from sale.
There will be zero tolerance for any breaches of the law. Local authorities have powers to restrict retailing from particular locations - similar to alcohol policies - such as near schools.
If you believe the law is being flouted, you should contact police.
» Eric Roy is the electorate MP for Invercargill.
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