Legal highs a curse, says councillor

CALEB HARRIS
Last updated 05:00 27/03/2014

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Parents say they are distraught and confused about why the Government is allowing "psychosis-producing" legal highs into communities.

"This will affect our young children . . . it's frightening when parents ring and are crying on the phone and saying, ‘we don't know what to do'," said Carterton district councillor Jill Greathead, chairwoman of the Wairarapa Psychoactive Substances Working Party.

Speaking at yesterday's council meeting in Carterton, she said people were confused about why the legislation seemingly required the council to "provide a location" for the sale of legal highs.

Synthetic cannabis had already caused widespread damage in Wairarapa, she said after the meeting. "It's a psychoactive substance and eventually leads to psychosis . . . It has the same psychoactive effects as marijuana.

"We say that's bad, yet the Government's telling me this [synthetic] stuff's OK?"

She believed the Government had erred in setting up a regulated market for synthetic drugs, then devolving responsibility for its effects to local government. "It's supposed to be world-leading, but I think they've been had, actually."

Greathead, a mother of sons aged 13 and 17, said she tested "holes" in the legislation by buying Giggle synthetic cannabis online for $20, plus a $5 delivery fee, with no proof required that she was over 18. She complained to the Ministry of Health, but said she had had no response.

Parents were baffled as to why the legislation required councils to design a local approved products plan (LAPP) permitting licensed vendors of the products to sell them in designated areas, she said. "This is affecting our young children . . . The community has to pay the price."

Carterton Mayor Ron Mark said a claim by Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne that "whingeing, grizzling, moaning" councils were dragging the chain in setting up their local synthetic drug licensing plans was "outrageously insulting".

"[Councillors] are doing the best they can with a piece of legislation that does not meet their communities' views - it's got so many holes in it you could drive a tank though it sideways.

"The only person who doesn't seem to want to take responsibility is Mr Dunne."

Submissions closed last Friday on the development of regulations to support the 2013 Psychoactive Substances Act, which stopped the sale of legal highs and party pills in easily accessible shops such as dairies.

Councils have until the end of the year to develop their own guidelines around where premises can operate if granted a licence.

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In the meantime, some interim licences have been issued to restricted sites such as R18 stores and tobacconists.

None are operating in Wairarapa, but the products are available online.

- The Dominion Post

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