Plans to ban 'legal highs' could hit a snag over how to test for dangerous side effects, says TVNZ. Britain is set to push through legislation next week to get legal highs off store shelves until high-risk ingredients can be identified. The conundrum is how to measure those risks without testing on animals.
Once the legal highs are banned, a testing regime will be needed, giving manufacturers a chance to try to prove their products are low risk and okay to sell. This regime is expected to take up to 18 months—but animal-protection groups and the Labour party are shaming even the thought of tests using any method that involves a living creature.
Labour contends there are alternatives, like computer modeling. David Cunliffe, Labour leader, looking at a fluffy pet dog,says, "Who would test legal highs on a beautiful animal like that?”
Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne says the Government is "still working our way through the animal testing issue". "I've made it very clear we're not going to test on dogs and certainly we're not going to be taking people's cats and dogs away for testing," he assures protesters.
Prime Minister John Key shares those concerns about testing. "We'll do it in a way that's acceptable to us. And it might be acceptable on rodents, it's probably not on most other things," he says.
So the Prime Minister thinks 'cause an animal's got a cute fluffy tail it's okay, if it has a long skinny tail it is not," Mr Cunliffe retorted. Labour is adamant it will not allow animal testing at all, and accused the Prime Minister of having no ethics.
WHAT ARE ‘LEGAL HIGHS’?
‘Legal highs’ are substances which produce similar effects to illegal drugs (such as cocaine, cannabis, and ecstasy) but are not yet controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act because there is not enough research about them on which to base a decision.
'Legal highs' cannot be sold for human consumption so they are often sold as bath salts or plant food to get around the law.
Just the fact that a substance is sold as legal to possess, doesn’t mean that it’s safe – there is no way to really be sure what’s in a ‘legal high’ or what effect it’s likely to have. The use of many ‘legal highs, like mephedrone, Ivory Wave and 5-IT. have been directly linked to emergency hospital admissions and, in some cases, deaths, reports TalktoFrank.com.
Experts at the Recreational Drugs European Network have identified a wide range of new so called “legal highs” that have been manufactured to mimic illegal drugs, says Richard Grey, Science Correspondent for the Telegraph.
Britain is in a “race with chemists” in China and India who are producing new legal highs which are then being sold on the streets of the UK, Home Office minister Norman Baker said.
The number of deaths from drugs known as “legal highs”, such as mephedrone, dubbed 'miaow miaow', reached the highest number ever recorded last year.
It means some of the drugs are being sold legally over the Internet while others are disguised as other products such as plant food and incense.
The chemicals, which are often made in China and India before being sold over the Internet, are appearing faster than it is possible for authorities to ban them.
Scientists in other countries are creating new drugs on a “weekly basis” and the Government needs to find new ways to deal with them, Baker says.
DO IT WITHOUT HARMING ANIMALS
There is also the very real danger that banning legal highs will merely drive purchasers to the black market, where the origin and content of the legal high is totally untested and unknown.
The Star Trust, which represents most of New Zealand's legal high companies, warns that the move will force consumers of psycho-active substances to deal with organized criminal networks.
ONE News political editor Corin Dann says Prime Minister Key is in a bind on this--he knows the government has to protect against serious risks before giving legal highs the green light and feels animal testing is a proven method-- but at the same time he knows animal testing is unpopular.
"If they look at the issue I think they'll see that they can do it without harming animals," says Shanti Ahluwalia, Campaign Director for Save Animals from Exploitation ( SAFE).