Dear Mr Hubbard,
Thank you for your emails regarding the Psychoactive Substances Bill.
You have said that this legislation is being passed so “children can get high”. This could not be further from the truth. Parliament has been emphatic that no such products should be used by minors, and upon taking over responsibility for this Bill I quickly moved to clarify that supply to a minor under 18 in any circumstance is an offence, regardless of where it takes place. The high degree of accessibility via dairies that has existed to date is also removed from the point of enactment, so children will not continue to see such products in these environments, removing the ‘normalising’ context.
While your position on animal testing is clear and I appreciate the concerns you have raised, I believe that the issue of human health needs to be carefully and continuously considered. As Associate Minister of Health I have a duty to consider all aspects of human health and have sought expert medical and scientific advice.
The issue of animal testing has had a high profile, and appropriately so. I am not a supporter of animal testing, nor are any of my colleagues. Any testing regime will be determined by an expert advisory group, tasked with identifying all possible alternatives to animal testing, and will be required to review these tests frequently and at least on an annual basis. It is my hope that a testing regime can be established, if not now, then in the near future, that will not involve any animal testing. During consideration of the Select Committee I proposed an amendment that where a test that does not require animals is available then it must be used. This amendment was adopted unanimously by the Committee and means that where the outcome of an alternative test offers the same certainty then tests on animals cannot be used. The law as adopted by parliament means that manufacturers will not have a choice to use animals in place of another test agreed by the Expert Committee.
I am not aware of any previous process that has so explicitly set out a requirement for alternatives to animal testing to be identified and for this process to be an ongoing requirement. I proposed this amendment in good faith and as a compromise so that Parliament's desire for alternatives to be found and used would be clear.
You note in your blog that prohibition doesn’t work. In the case of so called 'legal highs' this seems to be the experience of almost every country that has tried to restrict these products. The Psychoactive Substances Act means that manufacturers and developers of psychoactive substances are being given the opportunity to develop low-risk products, rather than have a blanket ban applied outright. To enable this regime, products must be thoroughly tested so that we can be sure that they pose only a low level of harm. Exactly what tests will be required now, and in the future, will be a decision for the experts on the Expert Advisory Committee.
Todd McClay MP