Timaru dairies pledge not to sell legal highs

Last updated 05:00 19/12/2012

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Neighbourhood dairies in the Timaru district have agreed to stop selling legal synthetic drugs, but two retail outlets are refusing to play ball.

It follows a campaign by the Safer Communities group and other community organisations to stamp out legal highs.

Timaru Mayor Janie Annear said she had visited dairies across the district who sell or are suspected to be selling legal highs, such as the synthetic cannabis K2.

She wanted to convey the group's message that they believe the substances are harmful to the community.

The Herald understands Stafford St retailers Karmec Creations and Dizzy Spells will continue to sell the substances, despite the requests.

Safer Communities targeted eight dairies in the campaign, first sending a letter that implored them to stop selling the substances.

"The purpose of this letter is to strongly request that you voluntarily remove legal highs from sale or distribution at your store," the letter, dated December 7, says. "This request is based on our grave concern for local youth and their mental wellbeing and asks you to respond positively to this request as a responsible retailer and local community member.

"Young people are reporting some alarming side-effects after using legal highs. Panic attacks, anxiety, extreme agitation, heart attack and psychosis have been mentioned a number of times."

The letter directed dairy owners to notify Mrs Annear's office of their decision by December 18, and if they declined, their names would be published in a list of stores that are continuing to sell the products.

Mrs Annear said she received a positive response in her face-to-face meetings with dairy owners.

"I don't think they felt that comfortable about selling them anyway," she says. "They want to be good citizens."

All eight dairies have agreed to stop selling all legal highs, had not been selling them or said they would not reorder the substances in the future, she said.

"This gets it out of the neighbourhoods.

"The DHB and other community groups were very concerned that [the substances] were that accessible."

Dizzy Spells owner Megan Devries has a different view, however. "There is an R18 age limit on legal highs for a reason and it is strongly enforced. You can get married at 16, you can have sex at 16, so why can't you make your own choices when you are 18?"

The Herald approached Karmec Creations for comment but did not receive a response.

The Herald is aware of two 14-year-old boys who were admitted to hospital last month after reportedly taking K2. One boy displayed psychotic behaviour. The other had raised enzyme levels.

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LAW CHANGE

The law around legal highs is to be changed next year. Key points are: Manufacturers will face an estimated $180,000 in application fees plus $1 million to $2m in testing costs for each product they want to sell. Penalties: up to eight years in prison for importing, manufacturing, supplying or possession with intent to supply analogues of controlled drugs that come under the Misuse of Drugs Act, and up to two years for import, manufacture, supply or possession with intent to supply unapproved substances. Personal possession of an unapproved product will incur a $300 fine. Minimum purchase age: 18. No advertising except at point of sale. Restrictions: not to be sold in dairies and labelling and packaging to be regulated.

- The Timaru Herald

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