Hard line on K2 vendors urged

Tougher regulations making it harder to sell legal highs were announced yesterday but popular legal high K2 could still be sold for another month before it is banned.

Last week three Invercargill stores, one of them a dairy, were caught selling K2 to minors by police and Public Health South, which ran a controlled purchase operation.

Southland Boys' High School rector Ian Baldwin and Southland truancy officer Lindsay Thomas praised the efforts of authorities trying to ban K2 but said they were concerned no immediate action had been taken to prosecute the offending stores.

Mr Thomas said people selling to minors had to be hit with the full force of the law.

"This is worse than selling alcohol to minors . . . the law must back up the operation. I see these people as legalised drug dealers," he said.

Mr Baldwin said a quick decision should be made by the Health Ministry.

He said minors at an impressionable age took risks and society had to do something to minimise harm.

Health Ministry spokesman Kevin McCarthy said Public Health South had passed on the sting operation information to the ministry, which would determine any further action. He did not say how long it would take.

He said the decision to ban K2 would be linked to the results of its testing. "We are awaiting test results on the K2 product, which was submitted to ESR (Environmental Science and Research) by the police last week. Testing could take up to a month," he said.

Meanwhile, Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne yesterday announced a "permanent psychoactive substances regime" that would see legal-high manufacturers pay $180,000 in application fees plus up to $2 million in testing costs for each product they wanted to sell.

Penalties under the new regime included up to eight years' jail for selling banned substances and a $300 fine for personal possession.

“We will no longer play the cat-and-mouse game . . . chasing down substances after they are on the market," he said.

Suppliers-manufacturers will need to apply to a regulator for toxicological and behavioural testing before any product can be sold.

All products will be required to have a label listing their active ingredients, the phone number for the National Poisons Centre and contact details for the product's New Zealand manufacturer or supplier.

Legal high K2 has no labelling information on its packet.

Dairies will be also banned from selling legal highs.

The Temporary Class Drug Notices introduced in August last year had taken 28 substances and more than 50 synthetic cannabis products off the market.

The regime is expected to be in place by the middle of next year.

The Southland Times