Move to ban legal highs gathers pace

HELEN MURDOCH AND KATE DAVIDSON
Last updated 13:00 29/11/2013

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South Island councils are driving a campaign to ban the sale of psychoactive substances, furious that the Government has failed to do so.

Both Tasman district and Nelson city took a stand on the contentious issue yesterday.

Tasman district mayor Richard Kempthorne and Grey district mayor Tony Kokshoorn plan to ask the Government to completely ban the sale of psychoactive substances on behalf of all the South Island's councils.

Nelson city councillors also decided to write to the Government expressing their disappointment at not being given the opportunity to ban legal high sales outright.

"The only option that was never given to us, and this I think is an indictment on the Government, is that we should have been able to ban them altogether," said Nelson deputy mayor Paul Matheson. "I think that would have been a fair option."

The move comes as the Nelson City Council is about to ask the public for their views on a new local policy outlining where legal highs can be sold in the city, and Stoke town centre has been designated a no-go.

Tasman's local approved products policy (LAPP) got the nod from councillors yesterday, although the mood of the chamber was that councillors would have preferred to be able to ban sales across the district outright.

Mr Kempthorne said the feeling was the same across all councils South Island-wide.

"We did discuss this point at the last [South Island council] zone meeting and Tony Kokshoorn and I intend to go to the appropriate minister and say all the South Island councils oppose the sale of psychoactive substances and want them completely banned."

Outside the meeting, Mr Kempthorne said the current policy of restricting the sale of the legal highs to certain parts of central business districts did not go far enough. But limiting where they could be sold as much as possible was a start, he said.

Golden Bay councillor Paul Sangster told councillors attending yesterday's environment and planning meeting that legal highs were addictive and destructive. Not that he backed it, he would rather see naturally grown marijuana supplied than psychoactive substances.

The policy, which attracted six submissions during its public process, allows the council to designate where retail sites cannot be. The aim of the policy is to limit community harm by limiting the location and density of retailers.

Premises have to be in central business districts but not near schools, kindergartens, early childhood centres, libraries, community centres, playgrounds or churches.

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However, councils could not make their local policies so restrictive they effectively banned the sale of psychoactive substances.

Maps of Tasman's main towns, supplied by environmental health officer Zoe Moulam, showed only a few small sites around the southern end of Takaka's CBD, the eastern and southern edge of Richmond's CBD and the southern side of Motueka's CBD could be used by potential retailers.

The Nelson City Council has also developed a local approved products policy, restricting legal high retail outlets.

Originally Stoke town centre was one of the proposed areas, but councillors on the governance committee voted to remove it, leaving the city centre as the only designated site.

Youth councillors Chloe Rumsey and Samantha Stephens were asked by governance committee chairman Ian Barker for their views on legal highs. They told the committee they thought access to the drugs needed to be as limited as possible.

New Zealand has been touted as a world leader in drug policy by adopting the Psychoactive Substances Act, which tries to limit the harm of legal highs. The act controls imported and New Zealand made highs and allows drug designers to apply for official approval for their products to be sold at licensed retailers once they have been tested for toxicity and proven to be "low risk".

Community consultation on the Nelson LAPP will take place from next Tuesday to January 20 with the aim of having the policy adopted in March.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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