Arson a low point in legal highs fight

Last updated 05:00 07/04/2014

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OPINION: A suggestion to the clowns who hiffed a Molotov cocktail into Invercargill's South City legal high shop: Don't behave worse than the bad guys.

Legal highs are sold with no particular concern for the social damage they do. To retail them is an act of social bastardry. Legal but dirty.

Arson is illegal - and even dirtier.

Starting a fire like that is no less capable of killing, maiming, scarring, harming, scaring and upsetting people, the great majority of whom have no involvement in the trade.

Arson causes extravagant grief and it does so indiscriminately. Neighbours, firefighters, hapless passers-by who might be tempted to risk themselves trying to help.

No amount of puffy self-righteous intent sanctifies the crime.

Burning down a bad place? It is no more legit than arguing it is not rape because she wasn't a "nice" girl; not murder because he was asking for it; not robbery because the banks are Aussie-owned; wasn't drink-driving because you felt just fine.

Even if we put aside legality and morality, there is the tactical problem.

Impuls'd owner Warren Skill has not broken laws but is now the victim of lawbreaking.

He is crying hypocrisy - because now he can.

Some people are now talking about wrongs on both sides - because now there are.

A few voices would, not defend, but mitigate the criminality of the act as motivated by an entirely understandable sense of frustration.

Granted, Skill's business, and that of the other outlet in Invercargill, Pillz & Thrillz in Dee St, should certainly feel, far more than they have been, the heat of social sanction.

Protests the length of the country are entirely justified.

Options for legitimate, sustained protest abound.

And not only the retailers and their landlords should be called to account.

There is fair cause for reproach against Parliament for the still-palpable functional inadequacy of laws.

We have 42 brands of these highs that are able to be sold legally, at least until further testing on them is done. That sits bitterly with communities who were not so long ago being assured it would be the other way around - that only after the manufacturers satisfied comprehensive (and expensive) testing criteria that ensure the products are safe (unlikely, we were also told) would they be able to be sold.

Miserably, those products that had got in while the getting was good are still tolerated. What we have is an interim purgatory. Much as legal highs can no longer be traded in dairies, convenience stores, liquor outlets and supermarkets, the new laws give councils scope to determine constraints on the location of specialist stores.

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In Invercargill's case that means corralling the trade into the inner-city. In small rural towns . . . well, heck.

Last August, Associate Health Minister Todd McClay was urging local government to do more. The Government had deliberately allowed communities to decide where the products should not be available, he said.

What if their answer was "not anywhere here", Minister?

They could restrict the number of specialist stores, he said.

Zero is a number, Minister.

- The Southland Times

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