Retail chief warns of legal high impact

Christchurch's premier department store does not want the sale of legal highs restricted to the central city because of fears it will concentrate intimidating behaviour.

In his written submission on the city council's Psychoactive Products Retail Locations policy, Ballantynes director Philip Richards said the potentially negative effects would detract from the city's image if psychoactive product retailers were confined to the central city.

"When psychoactive drugs were previously being sold in the city, our staff and customers frequently complained about the intimidating behaviour of the customers of the outlets," he said.

"The council's policy acknowledges that psychoactive product shops create a potential for harm, do we want that risk run in our new but fragile inner city?"

The council was on the verge of releasing the draft policy for public consultation when the Government announced it was going to ban all synthetic drugs until they could be proven to be low-risk.

However, the Health Ministry encouraged territorial authorities to push on with getting policies in place amid concern the psychoactive substances industry had responded promptly and innovatively to product development constraints in the past, and would do so again.

Under the draft policy, the council seeks to restrict the location of psychoactive substances shops to parts of the central city and limit their density.

It also proposes retailers cannot set up within 100 metres of "sensitive sites" such as playgrounds, schools, tertiary institutions and specialist drug and alcohol treatment and support services.

Police believe adopting a policy that defines where licensed retailers can sell psychoactive products would reduce harm associated with the use of those products.

In a submission, Canterbury district commander Superintendent Gary Knowles said the availability and subsequent use of psychoactive products was a significant influence on a variety of criminal and social issues.

"The use of these substances is likely to increase erratic, violent or risk taking behaviour and contribute to multiple crime types as a means to finance habits and addictions."

The sale of psychoactive products should be permitted only within the central city but further reduced than proposed, he said.

Knowles said the definition of "sensitive sites" needed to be amended to include the justice and emergency services precinct, the central bus exchange, all health care providers, pharmacies and places of worship.

Of the 49 submissions received, more than half agreed retailers of the substances should be permitted to locate in the central city only.

A hearing on the draft policy will be held tomorrow.

The Press