Dunne on psychoactive substances and cannabis

The sale and use of psychoactive substances are very topical issues. How cannabis is related to this often comes into discussions.

I asked Peter Dunne some questions on this.

1. You recently attended a United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs Meeting, Vienna, Austria and spoke about New Psychoactive Substances. What reaction did you get in Vienna about New Zealand’s Psychoactive Substances Act?

The response was positive and interested. I had separate meetings with the European Union, the Dutch, the British, the Americans the Australians and the head of the UN Commission where our legislation was the major topic. All are watching to learn from us, most we believe we are on the right track.

2. Are you happy with how the implementation of the Act is progressing?

I am very frustrated by the lack of response from local government. Only 5 of 71 Councils have so far prepared their local policies. Their tardiness is the major reason for the current public controversy.

3. Was the relationship between cannabis use and synthetic substitutes discussed, especially the effects of cannabis being illegal encouraging drug users to use legal but unknown drugs?

There was not much discussion about cannabis in Vienna, other than general confirmation that there should be no legal relaxation.

4. How are other countries dealing with the cannabis/legal high issues?

Many are applying bans, although all acknowledge that they are ineffective and merely drive things underground. That is why most are looking at what we are doing. In general, they seem to be about we were 2 to 3 years ago in this debate.

5. Is anything being done in New Zealand or being considered to being done about the claimed anomaly between far better known and claimed less harmful cannabis use remaining illegal while synthetic drugs are given approval to be sold.

In a word, no.

6. What are the chances of New Zealand’s laws relating to cannabis being reviewed in the next three years.

Zero I think.

7. Now your Psychotic Substances Act has been successfully introduced and is being implemented do you have any plans for or do you want to try and address cannabis or any other recreational psychotic drug issues?

It is my personal view that is possible that in the future the regulated market approach could be applied to cannabis, but that is not a priority. In any case, all the pharmacological and toxicologist and international advice I receive strongly suggests cannabis would fail the low risk test.