Legal highs stolen from city outlet

SASHA BORISSENKO
Last updated 12:58 30/04/2014
Awapoto Hut
TARGET: Gizmos was broken into on Sunday night.

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An "unknown quantity" of legal highs were stolen from a central Nelson store hours after the Government announced its looming ban on the synthetic drugs.

Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne announced on Sunday afternoon legislation that would remove legal highs from shelves.

At 10pm that night CCTV captured two hooded people kicking in the door of Gizmos in Bridge St.

Police said they then smashed a display cabinet and took an unknown quantity of legal highs.

Police and police dogs attempted to track the pair, but lost the scent at Anzac Park due to heavy foot traffic in the area.

Gizmos was also targeted on April 16, when psychoactive substances were also taken.

Nelson Community Action on Youth and Drugs health promotor Rosey Duncan said the organisation supported the approach to ban the products until tested.

"But we acknowledged this might create problems for some dependent users who will be unable to access a supply.

"The burglary may illustrate their desperation, and we encourage those people to ring the drug helpline on 0800 787 797."

Like all drugs, history showed that if it was not available on a regulated market, people would still find supplies.

"We concur with the NZ Drug Foundation that this could lead to users stockpiling supplies or accessing them through the black market."

The New Zealand Drug Foundation has criticised the government's move to ban synthetic highs, saying the announcement was political.

Executive director Ross Bell said evidence gathered as a result of previous bans had shown retailers held firesales for products and consumers stockpiled them.

There was an added risk that people would binge, or use higher quantities prior to the ban. "Predictably, many of these products will make it on to the black market, over which the government has little control."

Bell said the current legislation already allowed the removal of legal highs if it could be proven they were harmful.

The move was "just politicians playing politics at a time when we need a measured response to a very complex issue".

Mr Bell said that the Government now had an obligation to support those who chose to stop using legal highs and to closely monitor the soon to be unapproved substances.

It was important to provide extra support for those with addiction problems - not a consideration in Sunday's announcement.

"Ensuring these people get help will also ensure that demand for these products is lowered over all."

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A Nelson police spokeswoman said police had been working with the community to mitigate any possible harm caused by the sale of psychoactive substances.

"The introduction of the Psychoactive Substances Act in 2013 helped us address several concerns including the risk to health, involvement by vulnerable young persons, addiction and crime problems to support habits.

"We welcome any legislative changes which support this work and will be working closely with the Ministry of Health to implement these."

- Nelson

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