Medsafe: Don't Ban Poppers!

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Medsafe is seeking to list amyl/poppers and all associated chemical variations as prescription medications and to ban (schedule 10) iso-propyl nitrate which is the only type of poppers available in New Zealand. Details on the interim decision can be found at https://www.medsafe.govt.nz/profs/class/Minutes/2016-2020/mccMin10Oct2019.htm where it is recommended that a group entry for alkyl nitrates should be added to the New Zealand Schedule as a prescription medicine however a final decision may not come until later in 2020. The next meeting scheduled for April and public submissions can be made prior to that meeting once the agenda is published. This petition will be submitted to that meeting.

This change is to harmonize our regulations with Australia who recently reviewed alkyl nitrates and classed them as prescription medications. This was seen as a win as they were not banned but by making them prescription only they can be accessed legally through the medical system which includes doctors and pharmacies. Poppers would no longer be available through saunas and adult stores being restricted to pharmacies and currently no Alkyl Nitrates are currently registered for supply through pharmacies so they will effectively be banned from use and poppers will move to the black market. There is potential for the police to crack down on the sale of poppers through current venues if they are made prescription – similar to the experience when amyl was originally banned.

For decades, gay men and receptive partners have relied on amyl/poppers to comfortably enjoy sex, and decades of research on the effects of poppers have shown that the negative effects are minimal and contained - amyl/poppers are not a drug of dependence or addiction and result in little harm. Medsafe has proven capable of regulating Viagra (a comparably dangerous substance) for the benefit of active partners and now considering medicinal cannabis use. We believe that Medsafe should acknowledge the need for poppers and regulate the substance for safe use by receptive partners. Poppers have been used safely for decades - its use should be legitimised not criminalised and the government should not be targeting gay men’s sexual practices. The goal should be to guarantee quality and to reduce harm through improved packaging such as correct labelling and child proof containers.

The reasons stated by the Medsafe for this listing do not justify the criminalisation and control of adults engaging in consensual and considered behaviour that is accepted in many other jurisdictions around the world. In 2016 the UK Government attempted to ban amyl/poppers however the bid was unsuccessful when the justifications were put under scrutiny - we believe that the same findings can be made in New Zealand and that common sense may prevail and the listing of these substances as schedule 10 not occur. The UK Government Advisory Body on the Misuse of Drugs found the use of poppers was ‘not seen to be capable of having harmful effects sufficient to constitute a societal problem.'[i]

We will update you here once public submissions are open on this topic at Medsafe.

A ban on amyl/poppers and a listing of the substances as a schedule 10 drug will disproportionately affect gay men - overnight an entire class of law-abiding adults will be regarded as criminals.

We ask that Medsafe does not criminalise the sex lives of gay men that seek to have comfortable, consensual sex in the privacy of their own homes with the assistance of amyl/poppers, we ask that Medsafe ceases all action to further restrict the use of or access to amyl/poppers in New Zealand.

[i] Home Affairs Committee, Psychoactive Substances (report), London: Stationery Office, 23 Oct 2015, p. 14 https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201516/cmselect/cmhaff/361/361.pdf