Editorial: Get tricky with policy

PETER O'NEILL
Last updated 05:00 26/04/2014

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OPINION: In its generosity the Government has handed another job to local government - that of deciding where outlets selling synthetic cannabis can be sited within communities.

Local bodies can do what they want, except the one thing they really want to do, which is to ban legal highs outright.

That is something the Government has shied from, arguing it would just drive the awful products underground, and instead has opted for a testing regime where the importers have to prove their products are safe.

But that regime is not yet fully in place as the Ministry of Health plays catch-up with a lucrative and ever-changing industry.

For now, it is weeding out the worst of the drugs - when really all of them are bad.

From 200 to 300 different products a year ago, there are now apparently 41.

Why exactly the new psychoactive substances regulatory authority is spending time on this is unclear.

If the intention really is to make importers prove their product is safe, why not put the onus on them to do so from the start?

The offer to local government to decide placement of outlets could be seen then as something of an olive branch for a lack of central government backbone, but it is one that has raised the ire of the Pleasant Point and Temuka community boards.

By declining to say where outlets should or should not go, they are telling the Government where they can shove their olive branch.

This risks a distributor setting up beside a school or church, although you would think a wider Timaru District Council policy would also encompass the two outlying communities. That said, there is scope to have different rules in different parts of districts.

What Pleasant Point and Temuka really want is an outright ban but that is not on the table.

Or is it?

If the Government is being a tad disingenuous here, why can't councils?

How about this for a local policy? The Timaru District Council hereby approves the operation of any outlet selling synthetic cannabis as long as it is not within 160 kilometres of the mayor's office.

Now that sounds fairly straightforward.

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- The Timaru Herald

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