Psychoactive Substances Bill and cannabis

The Psychoactive Substances Bill  was introduced to Parliament on Tuesday with wide support. It is limited to covering new synthetic drugs, but a number of MPs and other people have raised hopes of having a look at how we deal with drugs covered by existing laws like cannabis.

Peter Dunne says this could happen in the future, but not “either under this government, or in the foreseeable future”.

He also points out that there is “no way under the regime in the bill that a substance like cannabis, let alone harder drugs, would ever meet the “low risk” test“.

He says “the pharmacological and toxological evidence of the risk they pose is simply too overwhelming!”.

So the answer is not likely soon, and not without dealing with much bigger  issues.

Background

In NZ Herald Damien Grant praises the Psychoactive Substances Bill but asks whether it could extend to other drugs, including cannabis.

Dunne’s drug bill’s a blinder…

Dunne’s solution is heavy-handed but simple. The bill bans anything that causes a psychoactive effect but, if a manufacturer can prove their product has a “low risk of harm”, they can obtain a licence to sell it.

…but should go further

Like most opiates, heroin is highly addictive, with a number of negative long-term effects, so it may not pass the low risk of harm criteria, but why should it be excluded automatically? Likewise, cannabis cannot be licensed yet chemical substitutes for it can be.

Dunne’s bill is a small step on a long road that may lead to a more rational way of dealing with the human desire to get high.

This was also mentioned when the bill was introduced to Parliament. Ian Lees-Galloway (Labour):

I think this is a very positive step, and we may want to look more widely at how it could be applied to other substances.

Kevin Hague (Greens):

So it is proportionate, health-based, and it is the direction that our drug policy and drug law needs to move in. I would support the comments that have been made by other members in relation to the overhaul that is required for the whole of the Misuse of Drugs Act. We too believe that that is overdue and look forward to that occurring in the near future.

I asked Peter Dunne how he thinks the Psychoactive Substances Bill might affect the addressing of wider drug laws.

I do not think there is any prospect of the psychoactive substances regime being extended to all drugs, either under this government, or in the foreseeable future. It is simply too premature to make that call – before the legislation has even been passed, let alone implemented or evaluated.

In principle, I am not averse to the regime being extended in the future. But people should be wary of asking for something they might get!

There is, for example, no way under the regime in the bill that a substance like cannabis, let alone harder drugs, would ever meet the “low risk” test and thus be allowed on the market. The pharmacological and toxological evidence of the risk they pose is simply too overwhelming!

The Psychoactive Substances Bill is a major step forward in dealing with the introduction of rapidly changing synthetic drugs.

It may lead to re-evaluating how we deal with drugs currently covered by other laws, like cannabis and heroin, but it doesn’t look like happening any time soon, and not without overcoming major issues.

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1 Comment

  1. Reblogged this on 4:20 Smokers Blog.

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