Policy could limit sellers of legal highs

Kevin Mechen
Kevin Mechen
A policy potentially limiting legal high retailers in Dunedin is imminent.

Last year, Parliament passed the Psychoactive Substances Act, which gave local authorities the power to draft a locally approved product policy (Lapp). That policy would help regulate where in their districts psychoactive products could be sold.

Dunedin City Council liquor licensing and project officer Kevin Mechen confirmed a draft policy would go to a council workshop in the next few weeks.

Following that discussion, a final draft would be presented before going out for consultation.

Mr Mechen said while working on the draft he had received much feedback, including a petition, and had talked to researchers about legal highs.

The DCC did not want to be the first council to implement a Lapp, and cited the example of Hamilton City Council which was now the subject of a judicial review after suspending the interim licences of six retailers of legal highs.

''We could rush and put something in place and then find that it has absolutely no weight whatsoever.''

Dunedin's policy could introduce exclusion zones around ''sensitive areas'' such as schools, early childhood centres, churches and social welfare agencies, rather than taking a prohibition-type stance, he said.

At present, there were nine legal high retailers in the Dunedin area. Last week, Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne expressed his disappointment in the response of local government authorities to develop and implement their Lapps.

That sentiment was echoed by Dunedin-based National List MP Michael Woodhouse, who, in a column in The Star newspaper, called on the DCC to implement ''its Lapp quickly and suspend licences of retailers operating outside the parameters of that policy''.

In April last year, Mayor Dave Cull urged a boycott of synthetic cannabis, saying ''a minority of shop owners in Dunedin persist in selling the substance, putting personal gain against clearly identified community harm''.

Since the Act was passed, the number of retailers has dropped from an estimated 3000-4000 to about 156. The number of products has dropped from an estimated 200-300 to 41. No new retail outlets are permitted until the interim period ends, expected to be mid-2015.

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