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Background to the Act and the regime

This page highlights the background to the Psychoactive Substances Act 2013 and a timeline of the events and history of psychoactive products in New Zealand.

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In 2013, the New Zealand Government introduced the new Psychoactive Substances Act 2013 to regulate the availability of psychoactive substances in New Zealand to protect the health of, and minimise harm to, individuals who use psychoactive substances. Prior to this, psychoactive substances were able to be sold without restriction.

The Psychoactive Substances Act 2013 has not been fully implemented before now. During the establishment phase of the new regime, a number of importers, manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers were granted interim licences, and some products were given interim approvals, and were subsequently followed up to see if they were meeting their licence conditions and that their products were not causing adverse reactions

The interim phase ended with the passing of the Psychoactive Substances Amendment Act 2014 on 8 May, which resulted in all interim product approvals and all wholesale and retail licences being revoked. It also placed a moratorium on processing applications for product approvals and for licences until regulations came into force.

The Amendment Act also introduced a restriction on using trials that involve animal testing to support a product approval application. The fully implemented Psychoactive Substances Act 2013 will require all products to be approved by the Authority with emphasis on safety and quality, and all importers, researchers, manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers to be licenced.

The Psychoactive Substances Regulatory Authority (PRSA or the Authority) was set up to make sure that all products distributed in New Zealand that contain psychoactive substances are low risk products that have been through a pre-market approval regime. The psychoactive substances and their final products will only be able to be imported, manufactured, distributed and sold by licensed people and businesses.

Substances which previously were the subject of a Temporary Class Drug Notice are now considered unapproved psychoactive substances under the Act until further classified.

Timeline of psychoactives in NZ

21 April 2016: Amendment to the Psychoactive Substances Regulations 2014 came into effect. This allows for applications for licences to sell approved products by retail and wholesale to be made to the Psychoactive Substances Regulatory Authority.

3 November 2014: Regulations providing for product approval applications and licensing applications for importing, research and manufacturing to be processed, came into force.

8 May 2014: The Psychoactive Substances Amendment Act 2014 was passed which:

  • removed all interim approvals and licences from the New Zealand market (resulting in a recall of all products)
  • prohibited the consideration of animal testing by the Expert Advisory Committee when assessing if products are of low risk and therefore able to be approved
  • introduced a moratorium on processing any product approval applications or licensing applications until regulations came into force.

July 2013 – May 2014: Interim regime where some products were granted interim approvals and some manufacturers, importers, wholesalers and retailers were granted interim licences.

11 July 2013

Psychoactive Substances Act 2013 was passed.


The Associate Minister of Health Peter Dunne introduced a bill to regulate the sale, importation and manufacture of psychoactive substances, and the bill went through the select committee process over June 2013.

18 July 2013

The Psychoactive Substances Act 2013 came into force.


The Law Commission released its report, which included recommendations for a new regime.


The Government asked the Law Commission to review New Zealand’s Misuse of Drugs Act (1975).

Early 2000s:

New Zealand experienced a rise in the availability and use of unregulated psychoactive substances (in such products as party pills, herbal highs, energy pills, synthetic cannabis).