A shop displays a sign indicating it does not sell
synthetic cannabis products. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
Tougher restrictions on shops selling legal highs could
be coming to Otago, but not until after local body elections in
Associate Health Minister Todd McClay has written to councils
across New Zealand, calling on them to use new powers granted
under the Psychoactive Substances Act 2013.
The Act allows councils to create local rules to further
control the sale of legal highs, including restricting the
location and number of specialist stores selling psychoactive
That could mean stores could be prohibited from operating in
designated areas, such as near kindergartens, schools, in
residential areas or next to other similar legal high shops.
In Otago, councils were already considering the new powers
but were yet to decide what - if any - new restrictions would
Dunedin City Council services and development general manager
Sue Bidrose said councillors would be asked to decide if, or
how, to make use of the new powers, but not until after local
Council staff were already ''coming to grips'' with the Act's
new powers, and would present a report with options to
councillors after October 12, Dr Bidrose said.
The public would also need to be consulted before any new
policy or tougher restrictions were introduced, but
councillors were already being lobbied by those calling for a
crackdown, she said.
''We will be looking at it and we will be talking to some of
our [other] councils around what they're doing, and then we
will be looking to have a discussion with our new council.''
The Waitaki, Central Otago and Queenstown Lakes district
councils expected to take the same approach, staff contacted
Clutha District Council staff said they were not planning
policy work relating to the legal high legislation. QLDC
staff were studying where legal highs were being sold, but
the Act's provisions were ''yet to be tested with elected
members'', a spokeswoman said.
''It is reasonable to assume that they will have a view on
behalf of our community and may well wish council to pursue a
Mr McClay said it was important communities had a say ''on
the availability of synthetic drugs in their communities''.
''We have deliberately allowed communities the power to
decide what areas in their towns and cities these products
should not be available from, and it is important that
councils are fully aware of the powers we have given them in
He expected the new rules - together with additional pending
legislation - would result in ''significantly fewer''
retailers and products being available.