Sale of legal highs to be restricted to city

LOIS CAIRNS
Last updated 16:32 27/03/2014
Weirdos in Hornby

NO SALES IN THE SUBURBS: The council's proposed changes to its Local Approved Products Policy would mean premises such as Weirdos in Hornby could only operate in the central city.

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The sale of legal highs in Christchurch could be restricted to the central city area only.

The Christchurch City Council has been investigating the development of a Local Approved Products Policy (LAPP) which would allow it to control the density and location of retail outlets licensed to sell party pills and synthetic cannabinoids.

Today councillors decided they wanted to restrict those retail outlets to the central city.

The original recommendation before the council would have allowed legal highs to be sold in the central city and in suburban centres, provided the retail outlets were more than 100 metres away from "sensitive sites'' such as schools, kindergartens, parks and playgrounds.

But Cr Andrew Turner argued strongly against allowing legal highs to be sold from suburban premises: "This is the last type of thing we need to be allowing in suburban areas.''

Deputy mayor Vicki Buck agreed, saying she was worried that if the council went down that route Christchurch could end up with up to 38 shops selling legal highs. If such shops were only allowed in the central city, it would only end up with eight.

The council had a sinking lid policy when it came to gaming machines and it was also in the process of tightening the controls on where and when alcohol could be sold. If it wanted to reduce community harm then it needed to also clamp down on where legal highs could be sold.

"I don't buy the argument that if you put them [legal high shops] into the suburbs we dilute the problem,'' Buck said.

That was the argument put forward by strategy and planning committee chairman Jamie Gough, who favoured allowing legal high shops in suburban centres. He said it would be better for the community if such outlets were spread across the city rather than grouped altogether in a concentrated area.

"Watering it down is by far the better option. It reduces the visibility of it and spreads it well out,'' Gough said.

Cr Paul Lonsdale also spoke against restricting the sale of legal highs to the central city area.

"If it all happens in one area the problems are going to be huge,'' Lonsdale cautioned. "We want to make sure we provide a place people want to rebuild in and live in.''

Earlier in the meeting Mike King, who has shop in New Brighton which has an interim license from the Ministry of Health to sell legal highs, told councillors he was opposed to them placing further restrictions on where businesses such as his could operate from.

He said he and his wife had poured their life savings into the businesses and were worried for their future.

Tony Shipley, who runs Weirdos in Hornby, told councillors they should leave the eight shops with interim licenses to sell legal highs where they were. He could not see any point shifting them into the central city.

"We're not going to make drugs go away. We're not going to make alcohol away. What we need to do is start educating young people not to abuse their bodies like this,'' Shipley said.

His argument won some support from Cr Raf Manji, who argued it was a "parenting and education issue'' and that trying to restrict the sale of legal highs to the central city would not stop the problems that resulted from the use of such products.

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The council is expected to approve the draft LAPP next month ahead. It will then be open for public submissions.

- The Press

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