The drive to rid Whangarei of legal, but potentially dangerous, synthetic cannabinoids is stepping up with continuing protests outside stores that sell the products.
Yesterday, members of the Facebook movement Ban Synthetic Cannabinoids Whangarei picketed outside The Brew Store in Vine St, urging people to help rid the city of the legal highs.
From July 10, synthetic cannabinoids can only be sold in R18 shops and, when the Psychoactive Substances Bill comes into force in August, all such products will have to undergo a strict testing regime before they can be sold.
But group founder Darcel Maloney said synthetic cannabinoids should be banned entirely and not allowed to be sold, even if they passed the strict tests.
"It's not about legalising or decriminalising cannabis. It's about getting rid of these products that are causing untold harm, misery and damage to our young people and our community," Ms Maloney said.
"We don't want them sold in R18 shops [from August], as that means the products would have been tested on animals and we don't want that to happen."
She said as a former user she knew how bad the products were and said they were more damaging than many Class A hard drugs. The group was organising further action.
"I know that kids under 18 are able to get these products very easily in Whangarei. Anybody who wants to help can go to the Facebook page and join up or contact our local MP, Phil Heatley, or Mayor Morris Cutforth, letting them know they don't want these things sold in Whangarei," Ms Maloney said.
Only a handful of stores still sell synthetic cannabinoids in Whangarei after a campaign by police and health officials to get store owners to take them off the shelves.
The owner of the Brew Store said the products were still legal and, as an R18 store, they only sold to adults who were able to make their own decisions on what they used.
The man, who did not wish to be named, said his staff always checked that a buyer was over 18 and if they did not have any ID they were not served.
He claimed problems with the products occurred when people did not use them properly. The products had clear instructions on their use.
"People shouldn't treat it like normal cannabis. It's not cannabis and people need to read the instructions carefully and use it accordingly to prevent problems."