Ban the lot: Coward

TARYN UTIGER
Last updated 05:00 09/04/2014
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CHARLOTTE CURD
Grant Coward

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A former top Taranaki cop is spearheading a charge to have legal highs banned entirely.

At last night's meeting of the New Plymouth District Council's policy committee, Grant Coward, the former head of the district's CIB, took a stand against the drugs he says are causing no end of harm to communities.

Coward, now a district councillor, called on the council to put pressure on central government to ban all psychoactive substances from the country.

The Government, he said, had left councils around the country with no real power to deal with this ongoing problem.

While he wanted the NPDC to ban the sale of synthetic highs altogether, the council did not have the authority to do so, he said.

The only option councils were given by central government was to regulate where the drugs could be sold, which was not good enough, he said.

"Everyone around this table would know that these substances are bad," he said.

"This council needs to pressure central government to ban all psychoactive substances."

Mayor Andrew Judd echoed Coward's concerns and urged all leaders and prominent people in the New Plymouth district to take a stand against central government.

"I call for all the leaders of our community to come and send a message," he said.

"Community leaders, including the health board and members of Parliament, come to the council meeting on May 6 to object to this law that doesn't allow us to ban these products, and send a strong message to MP Peter Dunne that he's got this wrong."

The policy committee was last night discussing a draft Local Approved Products Policy (Lapp) that they referred to a full council for debate.

The draft policy would help restrict the sale of psychoactive substances to New Plymouth's CBD only, with no sales premises allowed within 100m of any other premises selling these products or within 50m of any sensitive site, such as a kindergarten, early childhood centre, school, youth centre, reserve or playground.

However, councillor Shaun Biesiek said that was not enough.

"It is time we draw the line. The Government has passed the buck on to us," he said.

He said he would ensure the legal drugs were driven out of New Plymouth one way or another. He suggested classing bus depots and taxi stands as sensitive areas to further restrict where the synthetic highs could be sold in the CBD.

"I don't care if we make it difficult for these businesses to operate. Even if the only place they can operate in the CBD is one metre square on some building, we should increase the sensitive sites," he said.

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"It's appalling that the Government could even consider that this [synthetic highs] is even legal."

Biesiek and Coward both referred to a report written by the region's medical officer of health, Jonathan Jarman, which outlined the adverse effects these drugs were having on people in the community.

The report said despite the new restrictions introduced in July last year, in January alone, 12 adults were referred to the hospital's drug and alcohol team for rehabilitation, and 102 people over the age of 18 had been referred since October 2012.

The NPDC will meet to discuss the Lapp further on May 6 at 4.30pm, and the policy will then be open to public submissions.

- Taranaki Daily News

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