Editorial: Something missing?

Peter Dunne wants to make harmful psychoactive substances illegal.

The associate health minister's clever approach is to put the onus on the manufacturers and importers of party pills to prove a certain level of safety.

At the moment it's up to the Government to prove they're not. That's problematic and, I imagine, expensive.

It must be, because Mr Dunne reckons it's going to cost suppliers at least $1 million a product to prove they are safe.

All of which raises many questions, the foremost being, is alcohol also a psychoactive substance?

And it seems it is. But in Mr Dunne's proposal to Cabinet, he says it won't be included because it is already controlled by existing legislation. As is tobacco.

To which I'd have to ask, from a harm perspective, how?

But back to that in a moment.

Clearly something needs to be done about party pills. The Government has tried to regulate them, but has ended up chasing its tail. No sooner does it put a temporary class drug notice on a product than another variant of it turns up under a different name in different packaging.

So Mr Dunne has called enough. Well, he's said he's going to introduce legislation this year and hopes it will pass midway through next year.

And if passed under present thinking, it will undoubtedly have an impact.

Few suppliers will warm to spending $1 million or more to prove their product is safe, and I imagine a low-risk pill in the market will have little appeal anyway.

Which means pills will go underground, despite officials suggesting they won't because low-risk pills will be legally available.

So I'm not sure we're going to gain ground here, but can't knock Mr Dunne and the Health Ministry for trying.

Because the pills are harmful to health. Which brings me back to alcohol.

Politicians seem reluctant to bring in serious controls on alcohol, despite the massive harm it is known to cause.

What might happen if Mr Dunne put the same onus on spirit, beer and wine producers to prove their products are low risk.

Or would the rules somehow be different?

Or is it just too hard to ask such a question?

Or unpopular.

The Timaru Herald