Stand up against legal highs

KELLY DENNETT
Last updated 05:00 14/03/2014
Paula Bold-Wilson, Tom Harris
HAD ENOUGH: Waitakere Community Law Service manager Paula Bold-Wilson and Maori development worker Tom Harris are organising a community hui to speak out against the lawful sale of synthetic drugs.

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Enough is enough, Waitakere Community Law Service says.

It's speaking out against the harmful effects of legal highs and wants others to do the same.

The organisation's premises is a few doors down from legal high shop Shosha in Henderson and manager Paula Bold-Wilson says there's been an increase in begging, loitering, criminal activity, soliciting and other disorderly behaviour over the past few years.

"Although it would be easy to blame the individuals we know that synthetic cannabis products are addictive and people will go to the extreme to get their next fix," Mrs Bold-Wilson says.

The Psychoactive Substances Act was passed last July which means products said to pose a low risk of harm can be sold in licensed settings to people 18 and over.

Regulations are still being developed with consultation now invited by the Ministry of Health but in the interim councils are encouraged to develop their own plans.

The Auckland Council says it's started working with a committee but no decisions have been made yet.

The ministry says there's been a 75 per cent reduction in the number of products on the market since the new law was enacted.

There are places in Henderson, Glen Eden and New Lynn selling legal highs. t Henderson Massey Local Board chairwoman Vanessa Neeson says she is especially concerned around the situation in her home patch.

She says store owners are nervous because unruly behaviour has got out of hand.

Mrs Neeson has written a letter to Mayor Len Brown asking him to ban legal highs.

"This stuff is frying our kids' brains," she says. "What we need is the community to stand up and say we've had enough."

Mrs Bold-Wilson and the law centre's Maori development worker Tom Harris have organised a community meeting and are encouraging others to come along.

"We know we're not the only ones concerned about the effects," Mrs Bold-Wilson says.

"We want to bring people together to educate our youth and initiate some community action to get rid of these products in our community."

Shosha owner Himanshu Mittal says he's happy to work with police and the ministry to sell psychoactive products in a safe manner.

He says all customers are asked for identification as soon as they walk through the door and records are kept of repeat customers.

"We say to police if they have any problems with our customers just tell us what customer you don't want us to sell to," Mr Himanshu says.

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"There are more than 10 faces we don't sell to. Sometimes they swear at us but what can we do? We want to look after people. We're not going to hand it over to minors."

He says the store does its best to sell responsibly.

"But we can't go further than that. We have to earn an income."

FACTS

■ Legal highs can't be sold in dairies, convenience stores, supermarkets, service stations or liquor outlets

■ You must be 18 or older to buy or possess psychoactive products

■ It's up to the manufacturer to provide conclusive evidence that a product has low harm risk

■ Enforcement and monitoring is carried out by police and district health board officers. 

■ Call the psychoactive substances hotline for advice on 0800 789 652

■ Make a submission at health.govt.nz/psychoactives/haveyoursay

■ Attend Waitakere Community Law Service's hui on March 21 at McLaren Park Henderson South Initiative, 27 Corban Ave, Henderson, from 10.30am.

RSVP by the end of today on 835 2130 or email louise@ waitakerelaw.org.nz. 

- Western Leader

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