Submission on Psychoactive Substances Bill, draft 1 - Tactical Ninja
Apr. 25th, 2013
03:37 pm - Submission on Psychoactive Substances Bill, draft 1
I know only a couple of you are that interested, but I'd be keen for feedback. I have till next Wednesday to get it down.
To Whom it May Concern,
In principle I support this legislation as a step in the right direction for drug law in New Zealand. Having the Act be administered by the Ministry of Health is a commendable move in recognition of the reality of drug use and its effects in this country as a health issue rather than a criminal one. Additionally, it appears that the legislation is a genuine attempt to create a regulatory framework to address the safety of new synthetic substances. However, I have some reservations, listed as follows:
The Purpose of the Act (Clause 3) should include harm minimisation and the promotion of health in relation to the availability of psychoactive substances – this will bring the legislation in line with the stated aims of New Zealand's National Drug Policy.
In line with this purpose, Clause 4 should explicitly include harm minimisation and the promotion of health as mandatory considerations for persons or bodies exercising powers under the Act.
Additionally, the offence outlined in Clause 63 of personal possession should be removed. Criminalisation for personal possession increases harm in association with drugs, and is inconsistent with both current legislation (Section 4D of the Misuse of Drugs Amendment Act (No2) 2011), and with the recommendations made by the Law Commission's Report “Controlling and Regulating Drugs” 2011. The intention is to regulate the availability of substances, not to criminalise users, and the legislation should reflect this.
In Clause 11, it is stated that the Psychoactive Substances Expert Advisory Committee must comprise up to 6 members who must have expertise in pharmacology, toxicology, neurosciences, medicine, and “any other areas the Authority considers relevant”. This appears to bias the Committee's makeup towards the clinical assessment of a psychoactive substance. Given that the function of this Committee is to assess substances in relation to their potential harms and advise the authority on whether they should be available to the public along with increasing public awareness, this group should contain at least one expert in harm minimisation and one expert in drug policy. This would strengthen the Committee's competence to accurately assess issues of a non-clinical nature, for example the social impact of a substance's availablity to the wider public.
Related to this, the level of discretion given to the Minister in regard to stakeholder consultation is concerning. For example, Clause 27 mandates the Authority to produce a Code of Practice for manufacturing of psychoactive substances, however there is no provision for oversight as to who is consulted when producing the Code. The Clause states that the Authority must “consult with persons or organisations that the Authority considers to be representative of the interests of persons likely to be affected by the code or the proposed amendments to it.” I believe that this type of consultation should be informed by a minimum of a group of mandatory stakeholders, including experts on harm minimisation and the end users of the product, to ensure that consultation is sufficiently broad and inclusive. This requirement for consultation of a specified group of mandatory stakeholders should apply to the development of Regulations and approval processes as well.
Clause 41 requires the Authority to maintain a public register of approved products. In the interest of harm minimisation, the Authority should also be required to maintain a register of non-approved products, along with information as to the associated risk and types of harm that led to the refusal of approval by the Authority. This will improve transparency regarding the process of approval, and also help the general public identify potentially dangerous substances and therefore make safer choices.
Finally, applicants for approval of licences to manufacture or sell psychoactive substances are required within the Act to respond to requests for further information within 30 days or have their application lapse (see Clause 14, Clause 33). However, there is no requirement for the Authority to process applications in a timely manner. This allows for the possibility of extremely lengthy approval times, which are potentially expensive and obstructive to the development of the industry. A Clause should be included within Part 2, requiring the Authority to respond to applications within a reasonable timeframe.
In summary, this legislation represents a fairly robust framework for the regulation of legal psychoactive substances within New Zealand. The changes suggested above will improve the transparency of the Authority and increase the breadth of expertise that informs the process. In addition they will align the Act more closely with New Zealand's goal of harm minimisation in drug policy.
With the above changes included, I support the adoption of the Psychoactive Substance Bill.
The Bill in all its glory.