Kava concerns in Psychoactive Substances Bill

NZ Herald chose to highlight concerns over kava being covered by the Psychoactive Substances Bill when it was introduced to Parliament yesterday.  This was an odd thing to focus on, it was one relatively minor point made in the speeches.

Bill seen as threat to kava

Culturally important substances such as kava could be captured by a law change which aims to stamp out harmful synthetic drugs, MPs have told Parliament.

Labour MP for Mana Kris Faafoi said it was unclear whether the law would ban or limit the sale of kava crops, used in a traditional drink consumed at Pacific Island ceremonies and gatherings. Kava contained psychoactive substances and could have a sedative effect.

Mr Faafoi said: “There is a lot of cultural significance to kava and kava ceremonies … for the Tongan community, for the Samoan community, and for the Fijian community. It is a serious issue.”

From Faafoi’s speech in Parliament:

KRIS FAAFOI: There is nothing in this bill to say that kava may not be included, so I believe that that is one of the issues. And Sam Lotu-Iiga will be interested in this, because he is never shy of an ‘ava ceremony. So if you read the bill—

Hon Maurice Williamson: It covers synthetic. It covers synthetic only.

KRIS FAAFOI: If you read the bill and clause 9, “Meaning of psychoactive substance”, it does not say anywhere in that part of the bill that it is just synthetic substances. So that is something that I think needs to be addressed at the select committee.

David Cunliffe was the only other MP to raise the issue:

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: I also wish to just briefly record as a member of Parliament with a large Pacific Island community in my electorate the sensitivity around the issue of kava taking. It is a traditional substance, it is part of traditional routines, and we will want assurance from—

Hon Peter Dunne: Wrong bill. The natural products bill covers it.

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: Well, we will wait for the Minister to go on record when he is in the chair, and we look forward to that. We will want to have assurances from the Government that traditional cultural practices will not be inappropriately affected by this legislation

From the Bill:

Clause 9 defines a psychoactive substance as a substance, mixture,
preparation, article, device, or thing that is capable of inducing a
psychoactive effect in an individual who uses the psychoactive sub-
stance. Clause 9(c) specifically excludes controlled drugs (as speci-
fied or described in Schedule 1, 2, or 3 of the Misuse of Drugs Act
1975), precursor substances (as specified or described in Schedule 4
of that Act), medicines, herbal remedies, dietary supplements, and
food from the definition. Alcohol and tobacco products are also gen-
erally excluded from the definition of psychoactive substance unless
the alcohol or tobacco product contains a psychoactive substance.
In addition, clause 9(b)(ii) and (c)(ix) provide that the definition in-
cludes or excludes a substance, mixture, preparation, article, device,
or thing that is capable of inducing a psychoactive effect in an indi-
vidual that is declared, by the Governor-General by Order in Council
made under clause 81, to be or not be a psychoactive substance for
the purposes of the Bill.

There is more detail in Psychoactive Substances Bill – download PDF (1.2MB)

(c) does not include—

(iv) a herbal remedy (as defined in section 2(1) of the
Medicines Act 1981):
(v) a dietary supplement (as defined in regulation 2A 10
of the Dietary Supplements Regulations 1985):
(vi) any food (as defined in section 2 of the Food Act
(ix) a substance, mixture, preparation, article, device,
or thing that is, or that is of a kind or belonging to 25
a class that is, declared by the Governor-General
by Order in Council made under section 81 not
to be a psychoactive substance for the purposes
of this Act.

Kava isn’t specifically mentioned but it seems obvious the intent of the bill is to not cover natural substances like kava and ‘ava.  Perhaps it is something that needs to be clarified in the legislation, unless it is already adequately covered by one or more of the above exceptions. It should be given appropriate attention in the committee stage.



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  1. Kava not affected by Psychoactive Substances Bill | Your NZ

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