Users stock up as ban kicks in

KATHRYN KING
Last updated 12:00 08/05/2014
Legal high
DAVID UNWIN/FAIRFAX NZ

LAST CHANCE: Customers line up at Palmerston North's Nakes Pie Man Shop before psychoactive substances had to be removed from the shelves.

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Discount fever had police on alert as psychoactive substance retailers lit a fire under their remaining legal highs in an effort to get rid of their remaining stock.

The Psychoactive Substances Amendment Act was passed under urgency in Parliament on Tuesday to remove all psychoactive substances from shelves and banning the testing of such products on animals.

Retailers had until 12.01am today to sell the remainder of their product before the ban was enforced; after then possessing or supplying psychoactive substances was illegal.

Palmerston North Inspector Brett Calkin said extra police staff weren't rostered on for the night, but those who were working were focused on legal-high retailers around midnight.

Their main concern was the impact of retailers offering last-ditch fire-sale discounts, and the potential for long queues, similar to that seen in Palmerston North at Easter Weekend.

However, he said the deadline passed without event last night, with all retailers complying.

He could not say whether there had been discounts offered as police were not standing at the point of sale.

"It's going to be interesting to see what happens today and tonight and over the weekend . . . when some people are forced to go cold turkey."

Retailers would be visited by police today and tomorrow to ensure compliance with the new regulations.

He expected that all the banned products should be gone from shops by tomorrow - sent back to the manufacturer or destroyed.

New Zealand Drug Foundation executive director Ross Bell has called for a six-month amnesty on police enforcement on people caught in possession of psychoactive products, but police have been unable to give any such assurances.

Calkin said people found with the substances would be treated on a "case-by-case basis" as to whether they would be prosecuted or warned, as with any drug offence.

At this stage, it was "all a bit new". "It would be unusual for us to immediately start prosecuting people," he said.

Inspector Rob Duindam, from police national headquarters, said a "commonsense approach" would be taken regarding possession matters involving users.

Butt Bucket owner Richard Green said yesterday he planned to open for a couple of extra hours to get rid of the rest of his stock, and had already reduced the price on some brands, but not by much.

Brands that usually sold at $10 were selling for between $6 and $7, while others priced at $15 were going for $12.

Other brands had been left at the usual selling price.

He had heard of other stores selling some brands for $5 earlier in the week, he said.

Anything that didn't sell would go back to the supplier, or be destroyed.

As he understood it, if the leftover stock was wrapped up, and ready to be destroyed or sent away when police visited on the first day of the ban, then that was acceptable.

He had pamphlets to give to people who were having problems coming off the products.

Whether any of the products managed to make the "low risk" threshold and come back to the market remained to be seen.

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"In a way, I hope not, I don't think there should be a market for party drugs, the only thing I'm just scared of happening is that they'll all go underground.

"There's a lot of people buying bulk stock - whether that's for personal use or for supplying, I don't know."

- Manawatu Standard

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