Low-down on impact of legal high

ANNA WILLIAMS
Last updated 16:12 30/01/2014

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Twelve young Marlburians have written to the Marlborough District Council on the dangers of smoking synthetic cannabis, hoping to prompt a crackdown on the sale of psychoactive drugs.

Their testimonies, outlining how legal highs had affected their lives, were submitted to Marlborough Mayor Alistair Sowman yesterday, who said he didn't realise the extent of the problem among young people in the region.

"We needed hard evidence that there was a problem," Mr Sowman said.

"We have very strong evidence now."

The Marlborough Youth Workers Collective, which is made up of health agencies, police, youth mentors and public volunteers who work with youth, pulled the submission together.

They propose a ban on the sale of legal highs within 500 metres of schools, playgrounds and most churches.

They also ask the council to impose a 300m gap between shops licensed to sell the drugs and restrict sales outside the hours of 9am to 3pm.

The Youth Workers Collective made a submission to the council on the same issue in September, but were told to provide supporting evidence that proved synthetic cannabis use was a problem in the district.

They made that first submission after all the Marlborough District Council Blenheim ward candidates stood up in support of candidate Aaron Goodwin's call for taking a hardline stance on the sale of legal highs in the region.

Mr Sowman said at yesterday's meeting he had not realised how serious the problem was.

Attached to the submission were letters of support by community organisations and hand-written letters by young people about their experience with synthetic cannabis.

A 20-year-old Blenheim man was at the meeting to support the submission after his experience with legal highs. "It's a lot harsher than marijuana," he said. "It's similar to heroine addiction. It put me in a bad place."

One person wrote in a letter they had seen someone take the drug and "totally lose themselves. I watched him start to peak out and hide in the corner, saying ‘help me, call my mum'."

The submission also included a list of proposals that other New Zealand councils had made around legal highs.

Marlborough Drug Arm chairman Roy Ramsey said he was feeling a "bit more positive" after presenting the submission. "Unless the community stands up, there won't be any change."

The council can create a policy restricting the sale of legal highs under the Psychoactive Substances Act 2013.

The issue is on the agenda for the next community and finance committee meeting on Tuesday.

If councillors agree to restrictions around the sale of psychoactive substances, a draft submission will go out for public consultation.

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- The Marlborough Express

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