Legal highs ban 'a public effort'

LYN HUMPHREYS, LEIGHTON KEITH AND LAIRD HARPER
Last updated 05:00 15/07/2013

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Legal highs could be banned from shop shelves as soon as early this week.

The passing of the long-awaited Psychoactive Substances Bill last week has been welcomed by Taranaki police.

But others who have been the casualties of the legal highs are sceptical that the legislation will be effective and are concerned that the banning of legal sales could drive the products underground.

Taranaki police who led the campaign against the sale of the legal highs within the region were pleased the legislation had passed its final hurdle.

Police along with the district health board would now be playing a major role in the enforcement and monitoring of the law, campaign head Sergeant Terry Johnson said.

The last thing police wanted to see was the creation of a black market, he said.

Mr Johnson was delighted with the way Taranaki people had supported the police campaign after they approached all dairies and other outlets to ask them to voluntarily stop selling the legal highs before they were made illegal.

He praised the people who protested outside the dairies that continued to sell the legal highs.

‘The campaign couldn't have been better and it got the public on board," Mr Johnson said.

New Plymouth teenager Logan Wilson was admitted to hospital in June with kidney and heart failure after using the drugs, and spent five days in the intensive care unit in an induced coma and on a ventilator.

The 19-year-old's mother, Kerry Robinson, said last week the bill was too little, too late.

Communities needed to band together in the war against all kinds of drug abuse. "When things like that happen, actions follow," Ms Robinson said.

Stratford Salvation Army Major Maureen Ashton supported the Stratford Citizens Against Retailing Synthetic Cannabinoids, the first group in Taranaki to hold protests against the sales.

Mrs Ashton said she was proud of those in Taranaki who refused to stand by and let the products be sold without restriction.

She would be watching closely how the new legislation was enforced.

However, a law change would not end addiction to synthetic drugs, Mrs Ashton said. She feared many would turn to other substances.

"We have already been trying to put some folks through a [rehabilitative] programme but it's been really hard finding them a place," she said.

"We would have preferred the Government fully ban it."

The law was resoundingly passed by Parliament with 119 votes to one last Thursday. It is yet to be signed off by the governor-general.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Health said it was possible the law would come into effect as soon as this week.

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Once enacted, it will regulate the importation, manufacture and supply of the psychoactive substances within party pills, energy pills and herbal highs.

Dairies, convenience and grocery stores, supermarkets, service stations and liquor outlets will all be banned from selling the products.

New offences, regulated by police and the district health board, will come into effect.

Product owners and businesses will have 28 days from when the act starts to apply for interim product approvals and licences. Interim product approval and licence fees will apply.

No new psychoactive products may be introduced to the New Zealand market until approval has been obtained.

- Taranaki Daily News

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