Legal highs policy due to be adopted

A policy to deal with the sale of legal highs in the Waitaki district is due to be adopted by the Waitaki District Council on Wednesday, but does not meet demands from some people for a total ban.

The council put out a draft policy calling for public submissions.

It received 28, most of which called for a ban on sales of psychoactive substances (known as ''legal highs'').

However, the Psychoactive Substance Act 2013, under which the policy has to be prepared, prevents local authorities from banning legal highs, nor can it make it so difficult that sales are effectively banned.

Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher said he did not want the sale of legal highs in the district, having seen the devastating effects they had on so many families.

Having a well-constructed policy would allow restrictions on the locations of licensed premises.

''The policy we are about to adopt will give us the ability to be as restrictive as we can while staying within the law,'' he said.

''If we are more restrictive than that, our policy may be deemed invalid and we may see many more licensed premises opening across a greater area within the district.''

Licensed premises would need to be at least 50m away from sensitive sites - designated in the plan - such as schools, churches, and medical centres.

They would also need to be at least 100m from a residential area.

That effectively limits sales to only a small area in Oamaru around Thames, Severn, Coquet and Wear Sts in the central business district, and does not allow them in rural towns from Omarama to Palmerston.

The council would continue to lobby central government through the Otago mayoral forum, voicing its concerns over the sale of psychoactive products.

''I have seen the harm caused by these products, so we want to do as much as we legally can to prevent further harm.

''This policy, I believe, is the best we can have to do this. We will also work with police to ensure only licensed premises are able to sell psychoactive substances,'' he said.

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