The New Zealand government made a mistake when it allowed 41 “legal high” products to remain on sale, Prime Minister John Key says.
Laws were passed last July that dramatically reduced the number of products that could be sold and also cut down on the outlets marketing them, but 41 were given interim approval to stay on the shelves.
Now those are going to be banned as well following a public outcry and warnings about the effect they’re having on users.
“I think in hindsight that was mistake – we should have taken the ultra-conservative view and said all of them were off until they could go through the full regime and prove there was no harm,” Mr Key told reporters on Monday.
The legislation passed in July set up a testing regime, with manufacturers having to prove their products were safe before they could be sold.
Mr Key says that will continue to be valid.
“There will be a process that manufacturers will be able to go through, that will be a long and very expensive process and, if you want my view, I hope none of the products actually make it.”
Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne announced on Sunday that parliament would go into urgency on Thursday next week to pass the new ban law.
He says the government hadn’t intended announcing the move until then, to stop people stockpiling, but Labour forced his hand by planning to launch a similar policy on Monday.
Labour brought that forward to Sunday, saying it proposed putting up a member’s bill which would revoke the interim licences given to the 41 products.
Campaigners against the products are celebrating the government’s move but the Drug Foundation says it won’t end any of the problems associated with them.
Foundation director Ross Bell says there’s no need for a “mad rush” and banning the products will drive them underground.
“Our preference is to keep the products on the shelves, keep them visible, keep them easier to control, make them easier to regulate,” he said.
Mr Bell is questioning how much thought has been given to support services for people who are dependent on the products.
“Will they simply score from the black market, not knowing what they’re buying?”