Opinion split over legal highs

KELSEY FLETCHER
Last updated 07:39 22/01/2014
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Should legal highs be banned from Palmerston North CBD?

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A push to ban legal high retailers from much of Palmerston North's central business district has put city politicians at odds with each other and the industry.

Public submissions on the draft Local Approved Products Policy (LAPP), which would place strict restrictions on retailers of psychoactive products, opened on Saturday.

The council developed the policy after last year's introduction of the Psychoactive Substances Act.

The Star Trust, which represents the interests of the legal high retailers, has made a submission to the council and is awaiting a date to present to councillors.

General manager Grant Hall said the council was effectively banning legal highs from the city with the policy when the "social tonics" had been found to be low risk.

"We want to tell them what they are proposing, a total ban around the whole CBD, is untenable and that wasn't what was intended by the act," he said. "The act was very clear and the reason why Iain Lees-Galloway voted for it was that we wanted to establish a strictly regulated marketplace for scientifically proven social tonics."

Mr Hall said retailers held licences and were subject to strict regulations, and shouldn't be forced out.

"To ask them to move would be extremely harsh and completely unfair when you consider the policy the council has taken for alcohol, for example," he said.

"There are a lot of alcohol retailers in the CBD that aren't subject to standards as tough as this."

Palmerston North Labour MP Iain Lees-Galloway said prohibiting legal highs, which was essentially what the council was trying to do, would only end up criminalising the substances.

"The law is quite clear that we are not to prohibit the sale of psychoactive substances and the council's local plan has to work within the framework of the legislation," he said.

"What the council has done is not prohibition but it has very strongly curtailed the opportunities to sell legal highs. I'm a supporter of very tight regulation but my initial reading of it is that none of the current retailers would be able to carry on and there is an argument that it might be going too far. And it might be perceived as the council going after the current retailers regardless of their record and how responsibly those retailers have operated."

Palmerston North city councillor Lew Findlay said prohibiting retailers in the CBD would make legal highs less of a problem in the city.

"The Government are absolute idiots for allowing the half-pie policy they created and put out there - they have made it legal for low-life drug dealers to be able to sell addictive poisons to young people," he said. "Since Christmas I've had 17 people under the age of 18 come to me for help through the Street Van.

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"We have to see what the people of Palmerston North really feel . . . our Government OKed this policy, they've given us an absolute mess to try to build something out of and when we try to do it, all they can say is you can't do that."

Cr Findlay said if there were brothels all round town like legal high retailers, there would be people screaming at the council.

"If these politicians, who have never had a real day's work in their life, could get out and see some of the damage that their decisions are making we might get somewhere," he said. "But they hide in their ivory towers and listen to their bureaucrats who tell them a whole lot of socially correct information and all it does is destroy people's lives."

The consultation period runs until February 24.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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