Emotions run high on legal high law

Emotions ran raw as legal high users approached about 30 protesters taking part in a noisy demonstration in Palmerston North's Square calling for a ban on the synthetic drugs.

The protesters were part of a national action day on Saturday involving groups in 22 centres around New Zealand.

Their chanted message of "Save our children, ban legal highs" drew a cacophony of supporting toots and honks from passing motorists and a plate of snacks from a nearby cafe.

It also attracted a group of users who said they had it all wrong.

Legal high smoker Daniel Fairest said he had been smoking the drugs for three years, and even though he was epileptic, believed they did him no harm.

Cannabis used to make him violent, he said, but not the synthetic version.

"I know 1300 people who smoke legal highs, and they all say we should ban alcohol first."

Fairest said alcohol had ruined his family, and he gave it up.

But a couple of the colourful protesters on the traffic island said legal highs were doing incredible damage, especially to young people.

Tracy Davis said most of the people in the protest were trying to help others who were so addicted they thought it was normal to wake up vomiting blood and reaching for the next high.

"Their lifestyle and personality changes and they become violent."

Rosie Randell said banning the drugs, centre by centre, was the way to go.

It was the ready availability of the highs that fed the problems. She said the Palmerston North City Council should go as far as it had to, to turn its policy into a total ban.

Even if the city had to spend ratepayers' money to defend a ban, it would be saving the community a great deal more money in cleaning up the social consequences of allowing the substances to be sold in the city.

The council heard submissions on its draft local policy last week.

It will debate its plan next week and the full council will make a final decision at the end of the month.

Palmerston North MP Iain Lees-Galloway said the Government had bungled the implementation of the Psychoactive Substances Act.

"One of the biggest oversights was failing to consult with local councils about their role in regulating legal highs."

Finding they were responsible for regulating the location of legal high stores came as a bolt out of the blue for mayors and their councils.

"The Government has also failed to properly resource the Ministry of Health to implement the new law," he said.

"There are still products legally available that pose more than a low level of risk because the ministry can neither process the complaints it receives nor make fast enough progress on establishing the approval regime with the limited resources it has."

Manawatu Standard