Opinion: Return of the legal high

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legal-high
Legal Highs are expected to be sold again. Photo / Wikimedia

The fact is this: Peter Dunne’s made an effort to get illegal highs off our shelves, and that simple goal was achieved.

My initial worry was based on whether this would increase the amount of drug convictions, but after having checked out the Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment (AODT) Court, I’m assured that the illegal drug consumers are in good hands if they need assistance.

Auckland’s AODT Court convenes every Friday to provide a space for those who want rehabilitation to attend.

The court has three stages of rehabilitation where their level of commitment to certain aspects change, and by the end you have inspired men and women who want to benefit their community, work to get off the reliance of the state and be a respectable member of the community.

There is also an AODT Court in Manukau District Court that instils the same qualities and values in the programme’s graduates.

Realistically, if people recognised the negative effect illegal drugs can have, then you can see the damage it’s doing to your life.

We’re seeing moderation, legalisation and the such overseas, but people still want an escape, they still want to smoke and are searching for legal routes to get the ‘high’ they desire.

This is why we have legal highs, but when these psychoactive substances pose a high risk to individuals, and then society in either crime rates or hospital bills, we have a right to be concerned.

The good news is that it’s difficult to manufacture psychoactive substances, and if they pose more than a low-risk then it’s back to block one and Peter Dunne would like you to know that no company has actually applied to manufacture, import, research or sell.

Research is not something we should be worried about; researching cannot take place as it stands with animal testing.

This is what I consider to be the biggest researching road block, because manufacturers cannot do human testing without going through animal testing first – it’s too risky.

This means that it’ll be very rare, expensive or difficult to put legal highs on the market.

That might be a good thing to you, it might be a bad thing for you, because it will most certainly keep people smoking illegal highs that aren’t moderated by a health board. That is where we currently stand for manufacturing.

Importers, besides information that they need to provide for customs, are required to give the Psychoactive Office notification of when they are importing the legal high and what they plan to do with it.

This is important for tracing substances and licence holders must ensure these records are kept. But they don’t need the same level of research and documentation that manufacturers do.

That’s the bottom line. We have a market which is highly open to internationals that simply need to show that their drug is low-risk, but don’t need to provide all the additional paperwork that locals need to.

They can manufacture it in their own country, do human testing (because they can’t do animal testing) in countries where it’s legal to just go straight to human testing and these will set the benchmark.

We won’t know what the side effects may be, we won’t know what’s low risk about them. Just that they didn’t pose a high risk to the people who tried them.

If you’re highly against legal highs, that should concern you.

There’s no risk management process for importers. There’s no check that it’s a high quality product.

Research is only a part of the process that manufacturers in New Zealand have to go through. Sellers apparently pass by because they can only sell from licenced manufacturers and importers.

They should only be sold by licenced manufacturers but this again isn’t the case.

Why do internationals have so much power? I never received an answer.

But when you see legal highs come back (and they’re expected to come back by the middle of next year) make sure you only buy local if you buy or like it at all. Save your body.

And now, a comment from the man personally responsible for the putting of any legal high on to the market shelves, Associate Minister of Health, Peter Dunne:

“Psychoactive substances or so-called legal highs are not expected to return to market in New Zealand for several years, if at all. These products will only be permitted to be sold if they can be demonstrated, without the use of animal testing, to pose no more than a low risk of harm. All advice received regarding psychoactive products is that it is not legal to implement a blanket ban on all future psychoactive products that may be developed.

“Councils requested the authority to determine where in their regions these products may, in future, be sold from and Parliament agreed to this. I think it is important that they take this responsibility seriously and develop a comprehensive Local Agreed Product Policy in consultation with their communities. While I do not expect to see these products return to market for a long time, it is important that the appropriate restrictions and regulations are in place if and when they do.

“Like many, I am no fan of these products, but the reality is that they will continue to be developed and there will continue to be demand for them, so a considered, regulated approach is prudent. It is my expectation that any products that do eventually come to market will pose less risk than all banned substances, including cannabis, the use of which research is increasingly showing to be injurious to health.”

What do you have to say to that?

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