Fears for addicts now with legal high ban

FLORENCE KERR
Last updated 05:00 29/04/2014
Julie King, legal high ban
Bruce Mercer/Fairfax NZ

SYNTHETIC BYE: Tokoroa anti-synthetic campaigner Julie King is pleased the drug will be banned from May 8.

legal high user
Bruce Mercer/Fairfax NZ
STUPID MOVE: Synthetic cannabis user Tim Cassidy, in green, labelled the Government’s move to ban the substance as ‘‘stupid’’.

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A move to ban legal highs is being seen as an "election year stunt" by those who've been fighting to get the stuff off the streets for months, saying it's too little too late for people who are now addicts of the drugs.

The Waikato Times travelled to Tokoroa yesterday - a town that's been fighting to eradicate the stuff - to gauge reaction.

Tokoroa's anti-synthetic campaigner, Julie King, said the government's delay in banning the legal highs had only seen the number of addicts grow and she was worried about what would happen to those people once the stuff was banned under urgency on May 8.

She said the move to ban should have been made earlier and described it as nothing more than an "election year stunt".

King - who led nationwide protests against synthetics - said at the moment there were no resources from the Ministry of Health for the drug and the lack of rehabilitation centres in the region has forced the tireless campaigner to help those who want to come off.

"We started a community support group to help people who want to come off it. We don't have medical people on it, we are just there to support. We have no other options."

At the Tokoroa R18 Party Shop - which has been the site of many a protest against the drugs - users agreed that there would be an issue getting addicts help.

Michael, a habitual synthetic smoker who did not want to give his last name, said the banning of the substance would drive users into other drugs.

"I think the Government are just sweeping the real issue under the carpet, addiction.

"What is going to happen to all those people who took up the drug because it was legal and because they thought it was safe? They will turn to other drugs," he said.

Another user Tim Cassidy said the ban would create a black market.

"I have no doubt it will go underground and be controlled by gangs and drug lords. I started taking this cause I use to smoke marijuana for 15 years and got sick of dealing with tinnie houses and having illegal stuff on me."

Cassidy thought the move was "stupid" and that the Government had bigger things to worry about.

"They should have controlled it better and put an age restriction of 21 on it."

But St Mark's Community Preschool, which is three doors down from the Tokoroa R18 Party Shop, was excited about the news.

Manager Dale Anderson said she was "happy" about the ban, which would mean users that loitered and fought in view of the children at the centre would be gone.

"It has made it difficult for our parents because they [users] park by our centre leaving our parents with nowhere to park. This is a great thing."

Tokoroa Hospital manager Joanne Knight also welcomed it and hoped her staff would no longer have to deal with patients on a synthetic highs.

"The staff have to deal with aggression, verbal abuse, having to manage patients who are so physically affected by these products that they can often not work, talk, or control their senses in any way."

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Knight said the reduced accessibility would decrease the workload on her staff created by the drugs.

- Waikato Times

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