Editorial: Legal high issue needs to be solved

Last updated 10:00 04/04/2014

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Editorial

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OPINION: The legal high issue is back on the agenda again with a local vicar upset with what's happening in his backyard.

Groups of young men have been using the garden behind the All Saints Church in Vanguard St as a place to smoke legal highs and drink alcohol.

There are five retailers in the Nelson region who have licences to sell legal highs. In January, some of the first legal highs in the country were pulled off shelves after people reported adverse health effects. There are now 42 legal high products sold in New Zealand under interim licences.

Unfortunately, there have been cases where people have become hooked on the products such as former Nelson woman Ayesha Stratton who was waking up three times a night to smoke it. She smoked legal highs for less than a year before becoming addicted.

There have been so many horror stories from around the country that it really is time for action. The argument is often brought out that alcohol is just as, if not, more dangerous. There's no argument that several governments have failed to address the real issue of teenage drinking. That will always be a concern but the current focus is on how to tackle the problem of legal highs.

There does not appear to have been a problem at All Saints Church until groups of youths visited Be. . . Adult boutique to buy their legal highs. Reverend Simon Martin is quite rightly concerned about the behaviour as it is so close the Loaves and Fishes outreach programme, where they help already vulnerable members of society. As Martin says, the older men in the programme are also unhappy with the presence of "young men with mind-altering substances".

It is an issue for the Government to tackle, and not one that should be left to local councils to have to control. Proper legislation should be put in place so that local authorities are given the power to police the problem. The psychoactive substances legislation passed last year was an inadequate measure in ridding communities of the trade in dangerous, mind-altering chemicals.

The Nelson City Council is waiting for more information from the Ministry of Health before it proceeds with its local policy. Meanwhile it has written to the Government to ask for the option of an outright ban on legal highs.

Many experts believe such a move is unworkable. Clearly, something more needs to be done to avoid the problems that are occurring up and down the country because of these drugs.

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Some residents are upset enough to organise protests against legal highs in Richmond and Nelson tomorrow as part of a larger chain of protests covering 20 locations across New Zealand.

There should be a national debate that can lead to a far-reaching solution to the problem.

- Nelson

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