Open Letter to Minister of Health calling for a total sales ban of untested synthetic drugs

Tuesday 24 September 2013, 12:30PM

By Auckland Chamber of Commerce



Dear Minister,

The purpose of this letter is to strongly urge you to urgently investigate the appropriateness of the Ministry of Health’s actions to grant official licences to retailers allowing them to sell more than 20 untested brands of synthetic cannabis.


As you will know, two months ago Parliament passed the Psychoactive Substances Act, which banned sales of synthetic drugs from dairies and other convenience stores. However, the new law allows sales from specialist shops only if and when manufacturers can prove their products are low risk.

In my language the Ministry’s decision to allow 107 retailers to continue selling 28 brands of untested drugs - all apparently variations of synthetic cannabis - defeats if not defies the purpose of the new legislation. It is saying that we can continue to experiment with the lives of our young people, their families and their futures.

Among expert views on this topic, I note that Massey University drug researcher Dr Chris Wilkins indicates he has been contacted by international colleagues expressing amazement that New Zealand appeared to be legalizing such powerful untested drugs.

The Ministry claim that the drugs approved temporarily “appear to be relatively low risk and will have to pass stringent tests if they are to go on sale permanently” is totally naïve and unacceptable.

I put to you that no lawmaker, official and/or scientist can know the possible long-term damage of these products – be it memory loss, fetal syndrome damage or mental impairment.

In July 2011, after an outcry over the toll that synthetic drugs were inflicting, an Auckland Chamber survey of members drew more than a thousand responses within 24 hours supporting an overhaul of the drug laws to require products to prove their safety before they could be sold.

I am confident that public opinion strongly supports the banning of these products as other countries have, and require them to prove they are safe before they can be sold.

I urge you to call your officials to account and stop them allowing young people's lives to be used as test beds for drugs and instead insist they undergo rigorous testing before they are allowed on the New Zealand market, as I believe Parliament has legislated for.


Yours sincerely

Michael Barnett

Chief Executive officer

Auckland Chamber of Commerce

0275 631 150