Retailers and manufacturers of benzylpiperazine (BZP) and related substances have only five days left to hand over their stocks to police before an amendment to the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975 classifying these substances as controlled drugs comes into force.
From 1 April, it will be illegal to possess, sell, buy, import or manufacture BZP and related substances that are the main psychoactive ingredients in the majority of so-called “party pills”.
Penalties for possession include up to three months in prison while suppliers could be jailed for up to eight years.
“We would like to encourage people who are currently in possession of BZP in any form to surrender it to the nearest police station. Retailers with excess stock can surrender these substances to police before 1 April,” Detective Senior Sergeant Stuart Mills of the National Drug Intelligence Bureau said.
Although personal use of BZP will still be allowed for the next six months, possession of more than 100 pills or five grams of BZP and related substances will be illegal.
“Since some party pill preparations contain more than 200mg of these substances, we would like to caution users who may be stockpiling such pills that possession of more than five grams, whether contained in a pill or as raw powder, will be a criminal offence. Penalties consistent with other class C drugs such as cannabis will apply,” explained Dr Ashley Bloomfield, Chief Advisor, Public Health.
“It will be illegal to supply these substances from 1 April whether money is exchanged or not. So users should consider this if they are considering giving pills to friends during the amnesty period,” Dr Bloomfield said.
The Ministry of Health is working closely with the New Zealand Police to identify options for disposing of BZP and related substances. The Ministry has been informed by the party pill industry that it expected an orderly, thorough and safe recall of these products.
There will be a six-month amnesty period until 30 September 2008, which will allow people to have five grams of the drug in their possession without committing a criminal offence.
Illegal drugs are classified by the risk of harm they pose to individuals or society. Drugs classified as “Class A” pose a very high risk of harm while “Class C” drugs pose a moderate risk.