Councils urge ban on legal highs

Local government bodies in South Canterbury believe the Government is passing the buck by not forming a policy on legal highs.

Mayor Damon Odey has been part of a team from the Timaru District Council (TDC) presenting a report on the Psychoactive Substances Act 2013, under which local authorities have been given the option to decide where outlets can operate from. They have not been given the option to ban the products outright.

Odey said the Pleasant Point and Temuka community boards had rejected an opportunity to provide feedback for drafting local policy because they wanted to send a message to central government to legislate against it.

"I think everybody would like to ban it full stop.

"We have been sending a strong message to government they should have dealt with it," he said.

Odey said although central government had ignored the problem of legal highs it would be remiss of the local authorities not to form a policy surrounding them, so that they [legal highs] could be policed where possible.

He said currently there was an agreement with the retailers in Timaru to keep it to two stores in Stafford St, which is why the local government legislation was important to enforce the agreement.

"I think everybody would like to ban them, full stop," Odey said.

Pleasant Point Community Board chairman Richard Lyon said they decided not to provide feedback for a draft policy, to push it back to central government which he thought should be responsible for regulating against the products.

"We don't want any part of this substance. We want to send the message it ain't okay in Point."

He was hopeful the new Psychoactive Substances Regulatory Authority would refuse licences in future.

Temuka Community Board chairman Pat Mulvey said they also felt they would be sending a strong message that synthetic cannabis should be banned if they did not provide feedback.

"It may well be that we have to set a place, but we are reluctant to set a site, and definitely not in Temuka."

Rangitata MP Jo Goodhew said many members of the public had expressed their concern about harmful experiences of both legal and illegal drugs.

She said the Government's goal was to support communities to prevent and reduce harm caused by legal highs by bringing the legal high market under control without driving it underground.

She said all local authorities had the power to draft locally approved product policies, which regulated where in their district psychoactive products were sold.

She believed this option was only part of a suite of tools to control these products.

"Not using legal highs is always the safest option for anyone," Goodhew said.

The Timaru Herald