New drugs law confusing - defence counsel

The prosecution of a woman for selling "legal highs" next to her dairy has hit some speed bumps in the Whanganui District Court.

The lawyer for 49-year-old Lina Fan has called the Psychoactive Substances Act "confusing" and the judge required more time to consider the matter.

Fan, who denies five charges under the new legislation, is the first person in the region to be charged under the act. The Gonville dairy owner made her second appearance in court yesterday. But because there is only one other such case being heard in New Zealand both her lawyer and the judge needed extra time to consider how to proceed.

Fan pleaded not guilty before Judge Dugald Matheson to one charge of selling or supplying non-approved psychoactive substances, one of possessing non-approved psychoactive substances for sale or supply and three other psychoactive substances offending.

Defence counsel Debbie Goodlet said since the act came into force on July 15 only one prosecution had been brought.

That person, Hui Xie of Hamilton, pleaded guilty to two charges of supply and possessing non-approved psychoactive products late last month and will be sentenced on December 16.

Ms Goodlet said because the act was "a confusing, evolving document" the list of approved substances was constantly changing. One such non-approved substance, for which Fan was charged with possession for sale or supply, had since changed to an approved substance, she said. Because of this a further charge of possessing non-approved substances was withdrawn by the court.

She said Fan had wanted to sell the products in a separate part of her Alma Rd shop in order to comply with the new regulations, but her interim licence had been suspended after her arrest.

"The suspension in itself is a serious punitive issue and financial matter for her. This will further affect her earning substantially, as will the ongoing suspension," Ms Goodlet said.

She also referred to the difficulty in establishing a suitable penalty for the charges and Judge Matheson said he would need more time to consider arguments on the matter from both Ms Goodlet and police prosecutor Sergeant Steve Butler.

Judge Matheson ordered Fan to reappear on Tuesday for the matter to be heard again.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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