Rally against legal highs

By Hannah Norton

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Protesters take to Whangarei streets rallying against the sale of legal highs. Photo/Ron Burgin
Protesters take to Whangarei streets rallying against the sale of legal highs. Photo/Ron Burgin

One Whangarei mum has taken her year-long battle against the sale of legal highs from Facebook to the streets.

Darcel Bolton, the woman behind the "Ban Synthetic Cannabinoids Whangarei" Facebook group, organised a street protest on Saturday against the sale and distribution of legal highs.

It was a nationwide day of action against legal highs, with protests being held in 22 towns and cities across the country.

"I'm just sick of seeing what it's doing to our community. I see young ones, and old ones, at the bus stop, going off their heads after smoking it," she said.

"It's like methamphetamine, it's come along and smashed everyone in a short amount of time," she said.

About 70 people showed up to the Rose St bus terminal on Saturday to protest, and sign the national petition to ban legal highs completely.

The Whangarei rally marched to the Brew Shop, in Vine St - one of three Whangarei outlets that legally sell the products - before marching on to the council chambers at Forum North where a closing karakia was held.

"We're getting the petition out there, and we are asking people to make their submissions to the policy being drafted," Ms Bolton said.

Last year Parliament introduced the Psychoactive Substances Act, which gives local authorities the right to develop a locally-approved products policy that can determine where such products can be sold.

While Whangarei District Council would like to ban legal highs completely, the Act will not allow it, so it has proposed to limit the sale of psychoactive substances to a three-block area of the CBD.

"We're begging and pleading with neighbouring businesses to please get a licence, but not to sell the stuff [to prevent others from getting a licence]," Ms Bolton said.

"It's the only short-term plan we have until our local council thinks of a better move."

The long-term solution would be to ban the sale and distribution of all legal highs entirely, she said.

"Over 22 towns have spoken, hundreds have stepped up - it needs to be stopped."

For more information, or to sign the petition, visit the "Ban Synthetic Cannabinoids Whangarei" group on Facebook.

The group was started by Ms Bolton about a year ago and now has more than 500 members.

- Northern Advocate

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