Animal rights activists have protested for years to make catnip a restricted drug and it looks like they have got their way. The Government will be making the ‘herb’ a Class C drug starting in April.
Jacinda Ardern announced the change despite the Government’s panel of drugs experts saying it would not deter millions of cats using the drug.
Police officers also say it will be difficult to enforce but Jacinda Ardern had already made clear her intent on making catnip a Class C drug.
Miss Ardern said she was concerned about the mental health effects of cats and said the move was needed to “protect the feline population of New Zealand
She said: “Some cats are using catnip to achieve intoxication. The consequences might be very serious for their mental health.
“Where there is a clear and serious risk to mental health, I err on the side of caution. I make no apology for that. I am not prepared to ‘wait and see’.”
The planned changes will include a ban on the sale of catnip and toys containing the herb.
Courts will be encouraged to treat supplying catnip in vets, schools or universities as an “aggravating factor” when sentencing feline offenders.
Miss Ardern accepted all of the recommendations from the Government’s advisory council on the misuse of drugs.
She said she hoped making catnip illegal would send a message to police forces to treat possession of catnip more seriously. They will operate a “three strikes” approach to possession which will escalate the penalties from a warning to a court appearance.
The Government is also working with six power companies to close catnip farms by cutting off their electricity supply.