Protest closes dope shop

DOWN WITH THIS SORT OF THING: Dozens of Protesters gathered in front of Coronation Dairy in New Plymouth yesterday demanding it stop selling legal highs.
DOWN WITH THIS SORT OF THING: Dozens of Protesters gathered in front of Coronation Dairy in New Plymouth yesterday demanding it stop selling legal highs.

Fierce protests against legal highs have forced a New Plymouth dairy selling synthetic drugs to shut its doors twice in one day.

Jianqin Wu of Coronation Dairy in Coronation St was one of several shop owners who last month declined a police invitation to stop selling legal highs.

Mr Wu said he would continue selling the products until he ran out of stock. That has not been soon enough for residents living nearby who want the legal highs out of their neighbourhood.

Yesterday about 30 protesters bearing placards picketed Mr Wu's shop from 4pm to 5pm. In response he shut his doors and turned out the lights.

Protest organiser Denis Wadsworth said he saw the lights come back on about 6.30pm.

"I grabbed a couple of signs and went around to his shop again. There were a couple people in there and I started shouting, ‘Stop selling legal highs. Stop selling legal highs'," he said.

Hearing the renewed protest, two residents carried a 16-year-old to the shop. They said the teenager, unable to walk, was suffering the effects of legal highs.

"I shouted at Mr Wu, ‘Look at this. This is what your stuff does to people. Stop selling legal highs'," Mr Wadsworth said.

When the Taranaki Daily News visited Coronation Dairy at 7pm its doors were still closed. Mr Wu could be seen sweeping the floor inside but would not answer the door.

Though still legal to sell, the Psychoactive Substances Bill, to get synthetic cannabis and other legal highs off retailers' shelves, is being fast-tracked through Parliament and is expected to be in place by August.

Mr Wu's refusal to take synthetic drugs off his shelves has cost other retailers in the area, said Sue Sageman, who manages the neighbouring fruit and vegetable shop The Whopping Big Carrot.

She estimated she was losing $200 to $300 each day as shoppers boycotted the shopping area in protest against Mr Wu's stance.

"The car parks are empty all the time. Before this, 90 per cent of the time you couldn't get a park on either side of the road," she said.

Recovering legal-high addict Reuben Moeahu, 43, said dairy owners needed to know what they were selling was dangerous.

Five months ago Mr Moeahu was smoking the Kryptonite brand of synthetic cannabis every second day and said it was more potent than real cannabis.

However, he said that while under its influence he had several psychotic episodes and during one of these he smashed his neighbour's windows in and bashed down the front door.

"I couldn't tell what was reality and what was a nightmare. For me it shouldn't be sold because I felt I could have got to the point where I could have killed someone. It's just too easy to access," he said.

Resident and protest co-organiser Bernadette Jull said they intended to target other dairies that continued to sell legal highs. She said the synthetic drugs were addictive, damaged users' brains and could induce schizophrenia.

"I would like to see Mr Wu take some responsibility. Not only for his children but children of this area. What he is selling is dangerous," she said.

This is not the first time Mr Wu has been targeted for selling legal highs. Earlier this month a caller falsely claiming to represent Tip-Top said it would remove its products if Mr Wu did not stop selling synthetic drugs.

Taranaki Daily News