Public pressure for dairies and convenience stores to pull synthetic cannabis from their shelves has resulted in a drop in Tauranga retailers selling the product before today's reading of the Psychoactive Substances Bill.
The bill's third and final reading at Parliament is expected to be passed, restricting the availability and sale of synthetic cannabis. It proposes to ban their sale in dairies and non-specialist shops from next week.
In May, the Bay of Plenty Times surveyed 43 dairies and convenience stores to see which sold synthetic cannabis. Of the group which did, only one dairy owner of those who could be contacted said he continued to sell the product leading up to today's reading.
Lenz Superette's Farukh Khan said he still stocked the legal high but would stop as soon as the bill came into effect, and had contacted the manufacturers to collect the product from his store.
Mr Khan said he had tried to stop selling it but caved in to customer demand.
"When we were not selling it people came in and said we would have to, otherwise they would go buy from another store."
Oasis Superette manager Balwinder Singh said he stopped selling the product a week ago: "Just some people don't like it, some of my customers, so I just stopped doing it."
Mr Singh said he did not care much about the bill because he no longer sold synthetic cannabis, which had been "good profit".
"But not good for customers. I was getting some complaints."
Bellevue Superette owner Harry Singh said he no longer sold synthetic cannabis after pressure from customers to stock the drug.
No one could be reached yesterday at Cameron Convenience Store, Dairy 264 or Puff n' Stuff, which still sold synthetic cannabis in the May survey.
The survey came after Matua Dairy owner Raj Singh removed synthetic cannabis from his shelves because of customer pressure.
The bill, led by Associate Minister of Health Todd McClay, aimed to restrict the sale and use of synthetic cannabis.
Under the new law, businesses would have to apply for a licence to sell synthetic cannabis and would have 28 days from the law taking effect to do so. As well, manufacturers must prove their products were safe. Breaches could result in fines of up to $500,000 and two years' jail.
Mr McClay said he had seen how much damage and suffering synthetic cannabis had caused, particularly to young people.
Legal high industry lobbyist Grant Hall said they had been testing new products which looked "pretty promising". The industry had also set up a synthetic cannabis amnesty for dairies, with legal high companies to take back any unsold product at cost, plus freight, when the bill became law.
Psychoactive Substances Bill Q&A
What; is the bill?
The Psychoactive Substances Bill will introduce new legal restrictions for manufacturers and retailers of legal highs such as synthetic cannabis.
What will it mean for retailers?
Dairies will no longer be allowed to sell the product and any retailer who would like to do so has to apply for a licence. They will have 28 days from the potential law taking effect to file their application. There will also be no advertising allowed except at point of sale.
What will it mean for people wanting to buy synthetic cannabis?
It will be illegal for anyone under 18 to purchase, possess or consume any legal highs and the availability of the product will be restricted.
What will it mean for manufacturers?
Manufacturers will need to prove to the Government their product is safe by meeting set requirements, while ensuring the product does not contain any already banned substances. There will also be labelling and packaging requirements.
When will it come into effect?
The bill is expected to come into effect from next week.