The New Zealand cabinet Thursday agreed to ban popular "party pills" and hopes to pass a law by the end of the year, Associate Health Minister Jim Anderton said.
The benzylpiperazine (BZP) and related pills are popular with night clubbers and partygoers and are widely sold in specialist "party pill" stores, liquor outlets and some corner grocery shops.
Anderton said he hoped Parliament would pass legislation to make the party pills an illegal class C1 drug, which would put it on the same level as cannabis.
"The research, analysis of submissions, advice from experts and agencies ... all added up in my view to a ban and I took that recommendation to my cabinet colleagues," Anderton said.
Party pills have similar effects to amphetamines but are less potent.
Anderton said studies in New Zealand confirmed that the ill effects of party pills could include insomnia, headaches, nausea and anxiety. Some people had reported seizures.
Under the proposed law, possession of the drug could lead to a fine of up to 500 dollars (380 US) and three months in prison. Those supplying the drug could be jailed for up to eight years.
Anderton said there would be a six-month amnesty for those found in possession of the drug after the law was passed, although suppliers would be prosecuted immediately.
New Zealand's Massey University found one in five people between the ages of 13 and 45 had tried party pills at least once, and about 15 percent had used them in the past 12 months.
BZP and related drugs are currently banned in the US, Australia, Japan, Denmark, Belgium, Greece and Malta.