18 Jun 2015

Should New Zealand legalise MDMA?

9:15 pm on 18 June 2015

A toxicologist at Wellington Hospital's emergency department is calling for the purest form of ecstasy, MDMA, to be legalised.

Bags of MDMA and ketamine are seen at RCMP headquarters in Edmonton, Altanta, on Tuesday 23 April 2013.

Bags of MDMA and ketamine seized by police in Canada in 2013. Photo: Codie McLachlan / Edmonton Sun/QMI Agency / QMI Agency

Emergency physician and toxocologist Paul Quigley told Nine to Noon the drug was much safer than the new synthetic substances flooding the market.

Staff were struggling to deal with people who have taken synthetic drugs like "N Bomb", which caused psychosis, hallucinations and damaged internal organs.

It would be safer to legalise a drug such as MDMA, which did not have such serious side effects, he said.

"It used to be a prescription medicine. It was used by doctors in the 70s quite extensively for psychiatric work and work in marriage counselling, of all things.

"So there's even human trials out there - there's doses established etc, and then it was banned ... without considering whether it even had a purpose in medicine or not."

United Future Leader, Peter Dunne.

United Future leader Peter Dunne said he was not in favour of legalising the Class B drug. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

The Government would be able to regulate the market if the drug was legalised, Dr Quigley said.

"We've got to start thinking about new ways of controlling and one of them may be to provide a safe alternative," he said.

"In New Zealand, with the Psychoactive Substances Act, we've got the potential to do that because we could assess it, decide whether it's safe, we could regulate it, we could earn income off it, we could restrict it."

Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne said he was not in favour of legalising MDMA, which is a Class B drug - and said it would take several years for it to even happen.

"I'm not favourable disposed to it," he said. "As I say, there are a number of hoops that we'd have to go through before we even got to the point of its possibility of being considered became an issue. At the moment, it's classified as B, I think, under the Misuse of Drugs Act."

He said he would be meeting with Dr Quigley next week to discuss the matter.

Prime Minister John Key: Legalising ecstasy could create 'significant' potential harm

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