Community says no to K2 shop in suburb

By Anna Ferrick, Sam Hurley

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Greenmeadows residents and shop keepers have banded together to swiftly shut down a new store selling the infamous synthetic cannabis K2.

The recently closed CC Discount store on Gloucester St was reported to be selling K2 when it opened on Tuesday last week.

Rainbow Fish and Supply owner Greg Anderson said he was curious to see what the shop was selling when it first opened up across the road.

"I didn't know what it was, it just had CC Discount on the front and a R18 sign - so I went in to investigate.

"I asked the guy in there 'What are you selling?' and he said 'cigarettes'. I said 'yeah but what else?' and he pulled out a packet of K2 from under the counter."

Mr Anderson was alarmed that the shopkeeper was selling the controversial drug.

"I said to him 'you can't sell that stuff, it ruins people's lives' - but he just laughed at me, so I told him he was a d**k."

He then phoned police to notify them of the new store selling K2.

"I don't want that s**t around my shop, kids smoking that s**t and breaking windows," he said.

The Psychoactive Substances Act which became law on July 18, states any products which have been legally available for sale during the past six months must begin their approval and testing process or they will become illegal. If they do begin this process they can still be sold legally, as is the case with K2. However, the authority has the power to remove them from the market at any stage if they are considered too high risk.

Prohibitions and penalties for breaches of the new law include: no sales from dairies or any sort of grocery store, petrol stations, or anywhere alcohol is sold, no sales to under 18-year-olds, no advertising (except at the point of sale) and strict labelling requirements. Those that flout the bans face prosecution and substantial penalties.

The bill ensures no new psychoactive substance can be sold in New Zealand unless it has first been through pre-clinical and human testing and proven that it is a low-risk to people's health.

Local business owner Catherine Hawkins said she was first alerted to the shop last Tuesday.

She said the space had been empty for quite some time before it popped up.

"It went in really quickly. I went down to have a look and saw the R18 sign and lighters and filters all over the counter."

Mrs Hawkins said she knew straight away it was not the kind of business welcome in Greenmeadows. She contacted local MP Chris Tremain and the council, before getting in touch with the landlord.

She also set up a Facebook page in protest against the shop.

Last Wednesday night Mrs Hawkins received an email from a representative of the landlord to say they were working on moving out the tenant.

"He'd become aware of the Facebook page and the potential backlash. The tenant had misled him about the nature of the store, saying it would be a tobacconist." The same representative, who did not wish to be named, told Hawke's Bay Today the minute they found out what the store was selling they moved out the tenant, who had not yet signed a lease for the space.

"We hit her up first thing: one of the other tenants advised us what was going on. It is legal what she's doing.

"If we'd signed a lease already we wouldn't have been able to do anything but we just don't agree with it in one of our shops."

He said the tenant would likely just find another space and do the same thing. "She'll pop up somewhere else but she's not selling that crap in our shop."

The man offered his congratulations to Mrs Hawkins for acting so quickly and making the community aware of what was going on.

"I didn't set out to be the Wonder Woman of Greenmeadows," Mrs Hawkins said. "I just reacted really quickly. I thought it was quite a serious violation of our community. The Facebook page was a way to bring the community together to reach a consensus on how to act in a democratic way."

She said the response from the community via Facebook was "crazy".

"It's often hard to get people engaged, everyone is busy, everyone has different things going on, but the page was really powerful. People seem really grateful that someone has done something."

Napier Community Police Sergeant Nigel Hurley was alerted to the store by members of the community early last week.

"The store had been closed by the community before I even got a chance to go and speak to them."

He said the pressure from the public was excellent and an investigation into the tenant was under way. Police had been working on eradicating synthetic cannabis for four months and things were progressing nicely.

"Police have been working really closely with the Ministry of Health, the District Health Board, local iwi and the Nanny Brigade on this issue.

"We've had a hui and meetings - a lot of work has been done in Hawke's Bay."

Mr Hurley's message to people thinking of selling synthetic cannabis products was to think of the consequences.

"We urge anyone thinking of selling it, whether it's on Facebook or in stores, hoping to make a quick buck, to think of the consequences.

"We now have the legislation on our side. We encourage anyone with concerns about the psychoactive substances bill to contact us."

Napier National MP and Minister of Internal Affairs Chris Tremain said Mrs Hawkins was the first to contact him concerned about the new shop but soon there were plenty of upset residents sending him emails asking to have the store shut down.

"She and a number of people contacted me and there was quickly a lot of support - I told them what stores go where in the local community is a local council issue and with regards to the products the shop was selling, that was a central government issue."

Mr Tremain was proud of the Greenmeadows residents who gained enough momentum to make a positive and quick change in their community.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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