Legal highs sold in suburban street

By Amy McGillivray

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A residential-based retailer of legal highs operates in Gate Pa. Photo / John Borren
A residential-based retailer of legal highs operates in Gate Pa. Photo / John Borren

Legal highs are being sold in a residential street in Tauranga's Gate Pa.

The residential-based retailer of the psychoactive substances says his customers, who include professionals and terminally ill cancer patients, prefer the discreet location and cause no nuisance to neighbours.

Budz Galore, based in the owner's house on Bongard St, Gate Pa, is one of two Tauranga companies which have applied for a licence to sell psychoactive substances and are now under consideration by the Ministry of Health.

The ministry confirmed no retail licences had yet been issued to a person selling approved psychoactive substances from a residential address but applicants were able to trade while their licence was being considered.

The owner, who would not give his name, said he had never had any complaints from neighbours or police call-outs to his property.

"A lot of our clients are professionals ... the working class. People like a bit of R and R," he said.

"It's discreet."

Among his other customers was a handful of terminally ill cancer patients, he said.

"We have come to be privileged to get to know some of the terminally ill cancer patients in this area the people who have no way out.

"They are dying and they want help to live comfortably until the angels come to collect them.

"It helps them eat properly and it helps to alleviate the pain they deal with every day," he said.

The man compared his business, which also sold scented flowers and herbs, with the sex industry which could now operate legally from residential areas. "We're not hiding. We exist. It happens and there are people [who] want that sort of stuff, and to each their own," he said.

"It's a business operation in a residential zone and there are a lot of businesses operating in residential zones.

"At least we are away from the churches and schools. We're not blocking up the road. There's no in-your-face advertising about products. What's wrong with having a business at home?"

A neighbour spoken to by the Bay of Plenty Times said she had no problem with the business operating out of the house.

She had only noticed about two or three cars stopping at the house each day, she said.

"I think good on them. I think they are nice people."

She said she could understand people's preference to purchase the products in a residential area.

"Would you want to go into an 18-plus store? I wouldn't. People might think I'm a porn freak."

Western Bay of Plenty mayor Ross Paterson said regulating the industry as much as possible was the new council's top priority.

"The driver is the 4000-plus signatures that came on a petition and a fairly clear message that came from a street march in Te Puke and a community meeting we had in Katikati," he said. "We can't prohibit but we are going down the track of restricting."

The council has come up with a draft policy which would limit the location of legal-high retailers in the district to the Katikati and Te Puke town centre commercial zones and also require that retailers be at least 750 metres apart and at least 100 metres from sensitive sites such as schools, kindergartens, childcare centres and libraries.

"We don't want it out of sight in a quiet area around the corner.

"We want to be able to keep an eye on it. We're not looking to push it into obscurity anywhere in the district," he said.

Di Leach, who organised Te Puke's protest outside the town's sole retailer last year, said she believed synthetic cannabis products should be banned but understood the district council did not have the power to do that.

"I'm pleased with our council that is actually doing something about it," she said.

"The positive to having licences is that they can be monitored."

Tauranga City Council mayor Stuart Crosby said he had just added his name to a petition being circulated among the country's mayors, organised by Grey District Council mayor Tony Kokshoorn, in favour of a total ban on synthetic drugs.

The council was not currently working to formulate a policy around the sale of legal highs as they were waiting for the Government to finalise the laws around where they could be sold, he said.

David Gilmour of Sorted, a youth alcohol and drugs service, said it was "farcical" that the substances could not be banned and believed neither of the two licence applications currently being considered was suitable.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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