Hamilton locals protest puff shop

AARON LEAMAN
Last updated 05:00 18/09/2013
Anita Sopers
BRUCE MERCER/Fairfax NZ

PUFF PROTEST: Anita Sopers was among those who showed up to protest a shop selling synthetic highs in Hamilton East.

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Car horns blared along Hamilton East's Grey St as motorists showed their support for picketers protesting the sale of synthetic highs yesterday.

A vocal gathering of about 50 people clustered outside an unmarked shop they say had been stocking legal highs for the past six weeks. The gathering included long-time residents, business owners, young parents as well as a smattering of city and regional councillors.

The store, which has blackened front windows, was closed yesterday.

Protest co-ordinator Shardell Quinn said the picket was a clear sign people didn't want synthetic cannabis sold in a "suburban village". She said she was disappointed store owner Kinnari Mihir Patel had not fronted to talk to protesters.

"If he had nothing to hide and wasn't bothered by what we are saying then he would have opened his shop today and spoken to us. It's a cowardly act to lock the shop up and it's also cowardly to set up a shop with no signage and sell synthetic highs."

There had also been reports teens had been paying adults to buy legal highs from the R-18 store.

Regional councillor Lois Livingston had approached Mr Patel to express residents' concerns, but the businessman was adamant he was doing nothing wrong.

"He quite right that what he is doing is legal, but it's not right," Ms Livingston said.

"I've seen people fighting outside the shop and hanging around outside the shop at all hours waiting for it to open. My big concern is that you have Sacred Heart students waiting at the nearby bus stop and they see all of this."

City councillors Margaret Forsyth and Angela O'Leary met with the owner of the Grey St building and asked him to reconsider leasing his premises to Mr Patel. "We wanted to give him the chance to be co-operative and also understand the impact this business was having on the community, but we just got a point-blank refusal," Ms Forsyth said.

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- Waikato Times

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