New Zealand's Synthetic Drug Law to Pave Way for Marijuana Legalisation

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By Reissa Su | March 17, 2014 5:08 PM EST

New Zealand's synthetic drug laws could pave the way for legalisation of marijuana in the country.  Drug Policy Alliance executive director Ethan Nadelmann, who has been called the leading campaigner for marijuana legislation in the U.S., will be in Auckland this week to discuss cannabis law reform.

Dr Nadelmann has been chosen to be the keynote speaker at the Pathway to Reform conference on March 20 which is organised by Star Trust, a synthetic drug industry group. According to Mr Nadelmann, the synthetic drug law of New Zealand known as the Psychoactive Substances Act was considered a "global breakthrough" in drug legislation.

He said no other government has been able to establish a regulatory process to possibly legalise synthetic drugs if they are proven safe. Mr Nadelmann said there was something "profoundly pragmatic" about New Zealand's drug laws including collaboration with the grey market industry and the government.

He explained that a growing number of people are using synthetic drugs. Mr Nadelmann said somebody has to make sure that they come home every night safe and don't end up hurt. He believes there would be no market for synthetic cannabis if marijuana will be legalised. Prohibiting the use of marijuana has led people to look for synthetic drug alternatives, according to Mr Nadelmann.  

He said the synthetic drug law could trigger the debate in New Zealand in reforming the law on cannabis.

Given the remote location of New Zealand, it is difficult and expensive to smuggle drugs. Most of the drugs Kiwis use are manufactured locally, but as of late, there are newly made synthetic drugs that mimic the effects of illegal drugs usually smuggled in other countries. 

In the United States, recent deaths caused by synthetic or "club drug" overdose has alerted the Drug Enforcement Administration and federal lawmakers. 

New Zealand has yet to receive reports of deaths caused by the new party drugs, but the authorities have already seen the effects of these new psychoactive substances, commonly referred to as "party pills."

Party pills are unregulated drugs which can be difficult to track. Reports said that no one knows what's inside party pills, not even the manufacturer. Sources said that users in New Zealand purchase a small bag of discreet white powder or plant materials. Buyers of party pills believe there is only one kind, but it can be any of the versions or they may turn out something different altogether.

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