New Zealand to Impose Total Ban on Synthetic Drugs; Rabbit Testing Makes John Key Uncomfortable

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A participant practices rolling a joint at the Cannabis Carnivalus 4/20 event in Seattle
A participant practices rolling a joint at the Cannabis Carnivalus 4/20 event in Seattle, Washington April 20, 2014. Reuters/Jason Redmond

New Zealand families have reason to celebrate when the government announced a policy turnaround on synthetic drugs. According to a statement, the New Zealand government has imposed a ban on all synthetic drugs or "legal highs" until they are proven to be "low-risk."

The changes to the synthetic drugs law will be introduced in Parliament by next week. The announcement by the government may have undermined the Labour party's plan to propose its own ban on psychoactive substances in response to increasing protests from communities regarding the harmful effects of legal highs.

Sherilyn Tasker, one of the parents happy about the ban since her 21-year-old son suffered from synthetic drug use, said she is thankful that something is being done to prevent legal highs from causing further damage. Her son has spent time in the mental health ward due to the extreme effects of synthetic cannabis.

According to Tasker, the proposed ban will be easier for her son to stop using synthetic drugs. She said many parents have been trying to solve this problem of synthetic drug use. She believes "a lot of ignorant people" are still unaware of the damage caused by synthetic drugs. Tasker said the effects could be "far worse than alcohol and marijuana."

Meanwhile, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key indicated that animal testing might be an obstacle in the process of banning legal highs. The proposed law on legal highs ban will be passed under urgency on May 8.  Key said he has no problem with testing on rodents but found it uncomfortable with other species of animals. He states that the government accepts testing on rodents but is opposed to using other animals although from time to time, rabbits were used.

Key said he was informed that rodent testing did not indicate the harmful effects of thalidomide but if it was tested on rabbits, the problems may have appeared. He said he is "uncomfortable" with the idea of rabbit testing. If that's what it takes, Key said they will have to "go back to step one" and deliberate on a testing regime. Tests may take up to 18 months as authorities will have to work through them. Synthetic drug manufacturers will have to prove that legal highs pose no harmful risks. 

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