Zone for legal highs passes first hurdle

By Mike Dinsdale

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There are five firms in Northland with interim licences to sell legal highs. Photo / Paul Taylor
There are five firms in Northland with interim licences to sell legal highs. Photo / Paul Taylor

Whangarei stores selling psychoactive substances would have to move into a "legal high zone" if the council introduced one or stop selling the controversial products, the Government agency that licenses the firms says.

The Whangarei District Council's planning committee has voted to send a draft Psychoactive Substances Policy - which would restrict the sale of the substances (also known as legal highs) to Lower Cameron St, Clyde St and Albert St - to the full council for approval then out for public consultation.

The policy would only allow legal highs to be sold between 10am and 2pm, 6pm and 8pm and the stores could not be within 300 metres of each other, meaning a maximum of two to three stores in the zone. The council is putting the plan out for public submissions from March 3.

Parliament introduced the Psychoactive Substances Act last year, which gives local authorities the right to develop a locally approved products policy that can determine where such products can be sold. The council said it would ban legal highs if it could, but can't so has to minimise potential harm and felt a zone was the best idea.

The Act was introduced after widespread concerns about legal highs and their effects on the community and retailers selling the substances have to get an interim licence from the authority to trade.

Authority manager Dr Donald Hannah said local approved product policies (LAPPs) can apply to current interim licences to retail and, in the future, any full licences to retail that are granted under the Act.

"The authority has placed a condition on all interim licences to retail psychoactive products that 'the sale of psychoactive products is subject to any policy adopted by a local territorial authority'," Dr Hannah said.

"LAPPs play an important part in achieving the purpose of the Act as they identify where retail outlets can be appropriately located."

He said subsequent to a council formally advising the authority that a LAPP is in place, if an interim retail licence holder is identified as trading in breach of the policy there are a range of actions the Authority can take.

"These include for example licence suspension, licence cancellation, or through the retailer voluntarily surrendering their licence. It is anticipated that applications for full licences to retail will be available in early to mid 2015, subject to the development of the Psychoactive Substances Regulations."

The process by which the authority satisfies itself that applications for a licence to retail comply with a LAPP will be developed and outlined in the regulations, which are still being formulated by Government.

There are five firms in Northland with interim licences to sell legal highs - House of Fun, Strand Arcade, Whangarei; Buzz Monkey, trading as The Brew Store, 29 Vine St, Whangarei; Smokos Discount Tobacco Specialist, Shop 4, The Strand, Whangarei; Jujnovich Holdings, 37 Commerce St, Kaitaia and B'Arch Wear "The Funk Store", McKays Arcade, Dargaville. A fourth Whangarei firm, Stellar, 26 Davies St, Whangarei, has surrendered its licence.

- Northern Advocate

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