Push to stop legal highs

"Legally we can't do anything..."

LYN HUMPHREYS
Last updated 00:01 28/05/2013
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TARANAKI DAILY NEWS
The people of Waitara are being urged to put pressure on stores selling synthetic cannabis.

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The Waitara community is being urged to follow Stratford's example and put pressure on stores to stop selling legal highs.

Fiona Clark, of Waitara, has been calling for community board member Christine Armstrong-Smith to resign from her position because her business, Keyman Video & Lotto shop, is selling synthetic cannabis.

Such products are expected to become illegal from August 13 when the Psychoactive Substances Act becomes law.

Yesterday Craig McFarlane, the New Plymouth District Council representative on the Waitara Community Board, said it was up to the community to protest against the retailers selling legal highs.

"While everyone might find it an abhorrent drug which they don't want to see in our community, legally we can't do anything except put pressure on the people who are doing it," he said.

Stratford was a good example of how the community could band together to put pressure on the sellers.

"It may need to come to that in Waitara," Mr McFarlane said.

The widespread Stratford protest was effective in getting a dairy owner to pledge he would no longer sell legal highs.

Mr McFarlane said the community board was powerless to take action because it was not illegal to sell the products.

Mr McFarlane said Mrs Armstrong-Smith's shop, which she owns with her husband, Neil, was not the only place selling the legal highs in Waitara.

And it was Mrs Armstrong-Smith's decision as to whether she resigned or not, he said.

New Plymouth's family violence co-ordinator, Detective Sergeant David Beattie, said yesterday that police were dealing with the effects of the synthetic drug regularly.

"We have breast-feeding mothers using it, young teenagers with developing minds abusing it and the addictive nature of it is causing people to fight over the last packet or do crime to pay for it," he said.

People taking the drug who had pre-existing personality and mood disorders or anger management problems were being pushed into a dark hole. Some were making stupid decisions and ending up in jail, Mr Beattie said.

Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne announced he wants to fast-track the bill, aiming now to have it in place a month earlier.

Mr Dunne said there was a need to get the law right.

"It is about the health of young New Zealanders using legal highs and it is world-leading legislation.

"No-one has done anything like it," Mr Dunne said.

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There was pressure to have the legislation in place by August 13 to take over from the Temporary Class Drug Notice regime which now banned 35 legal high substances, the first of which would expire on that day, Mr Dunne said.

New Plymouth MP Jonathan Young fully supported the early implementation of the bill.

"I am appalled that people would be selling psychoactive substances that had sent young people into mental healthcare institutions.

"If I were a dairy owner selling synthetic cannabis, I would be pulling those products immediately . . . rather than wait for the law to force me to," he said.

- Taranaki Daily News

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