Legal high outlets restricted to CBD

TRACEY CHATTERTON HAWKE'S BAY
Last updated 05:00 07/12/2013

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The sale of synthetic cannabis has been restricted to Hastings' inner city, despite business owners' complaints that "stoned, agitated people" were scaring away their customers.

However, the move does not go far enough for councillors, who felt they were powerless to get to the heart of anti-social behaviour plaguing the community.

The council policy banning sales of psychoactive substances outside the central commercial zone comes after the community rallied to ban their sale altogether.

People protested in Hastings and signed a petition asking the Government to ban the sale of all psychoactive substances. Councils do not have that authority.

The Government passed the Psychoactive Substances Act in July to control their sale, but some dairies had continued to sell the products illegally in Hawke's Bay, Sergeant Nigel Hurley said. Owners hid the products in lolly packets to avoid detection.

Police had carried out controlled purchase operations, but it was not an offence to possess the substances, he said. He preferred the council to "ring fence" shops selling the products, to keep them away from vulnerable communities.

Smoke and foul language float into shops daily while terrified shoppers take refuge from groups smoking synthetic cannabis on the streets, the council was told yesterday.

Retailer Sally Hawkins said it was "terrifying" working next to one of the two Hastings stores selling psychoactive substances. There was a "steady stream" of "stoned, agitated people" hanging around the outlet, Adult Selections, she said.

Hastings' new policy meant Adult Selections no longer met the criteria to sell psychoactive substances. It is within 100 metres of a church and 300m of a nearby store, Discretions, which also sells the products.

After the meeting yesterday, director Steven Batty said he would be looking to find other premises.

Despite narrowly passing the policy, by five votes to four, councillors made it clear they felt hamstrung by the Government in not being able to impose tougher restrictions.

Jacoby Poulain did not support the sale of the substances in the district and felt she could not vote for the "best of a bad situation".

Wayne Bradshaw said he felt like a "spare bridegroom at a wedding". He worried the Government would not take notice of the council's policy and still "do what they damn well like".

Both councillors voted against the policy. The council plans to write to the Government over its disappointment at its limited decision-making authority.

The Government is expected to regulate further on psychoactive substances next year.

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WHAT THE POLICY MEANS:

Psychoactive substances can be sold in the central commercial zone of Hastings only.

Stores must be 100 metres from licensed educational facilities, libraries, place of worship, and community facilities.

Stores selling the substances must be 300m apart.

- The Dominion Post

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