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Int J Drug Policy. 2016 Nov;37:90-97. doi: 10.1016/j.drugpo.2016.08.011. Epub 2016 Sep 15.

Legal high industry business and lobbying strategies under a legal market for new psychoactive substances (NPS, 'legal highs') in New Zealand.

Author information

1
SHORE & Whariki Research Centre, Massey University, PO Box 6137, Wellesley Street, Auckland 1141, New Zealand. Electronic address: m.rychert@massey.ac.nz.
2
SHORE & Whariki Research Centre, Massey University, PO Box 6137, Wellesley Street, Auckland 1141, New Zealand.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

The establishment of a regulated legal market for new psychoactive substances (NPS, 'legal highs') under New Zealand's Psychoactive Substances Act (PSA) 2013 created a new commercial sector for psychoactive products, previously limited to alcohol and tobacco.

AIM:

To explore how the newly-recognised 'legal high' industry (LHI) viewed and responded to the changing regulatory and market environment.

METHODS:

In-depth interviews with six key informants (KI) from the LHI: a leading entrepreneur, chemist, industry spokesperson, retailer, product buyer and a researcher commissioned by the LHI - were conducted, transcribed and analysed thematically. Formative work for the study included review of official LHI documents (websites, public submissions, self-regulation documents).

RESULTS:

The LHI stakeholders espoused an idealistic mission of shifting recreational users of alcohol, tobacco and illegal drugs towards "safer alternatives". Passage of the PSA was viewed as a success after years of lobbying led by pioneering LHI actors. The growth and professionalisation of the LHI resulted in an increasingly commercial market which challenged idealistic views of the original operators. LHI KI reported the targeting of young and low income customers, price cutting and increasing the strength of products as business strategies. Attempts by the LHI to self-regulate did not prevent escalation in the strength of products and fall in retail prices. The LHI reported outsourcing of manufacturing and exporting of their products to other countries, demonstrating an international business model.

CONCLUSION:

There was a tension between profit and idealistic motivations within the LHI and this increased as the sector became more commercialised. While the LHI distanced itself from both alcohol and tobacco, they reported the use of similar marketing, business and political lobbying strategies. Rules for engagement with new 'addictive consumption industries' are required to clarify the role they are permitted to play in the development of regulatory regimes for new psychoactive substances.

KEYWORDS:

Addictive consumption industries; Drug commercialisation; Market regulation; New psychoactive substances; ‘Legal highs’

PMID:
27639994
DOI:
10.1016/j.drugpo.2016.08.011
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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