Shops in Kronic crossfire

By Kieran Nash

Synthetic cannabis products and legal highs may be banned for sale in bottle stores. Photo / APN
Synthetic cannabis products and legal highs may be banned for sale in bottle stores. Photo / APN

Police have applied to shut a bottle shop for selling Kronic and other legal highs, a move they hope will scare off others from supplying the drugs.

Liquor and Tobacco City, in Auckland's Victoria St, will appear before the Liquor Licensing Authority this month, after police found legal highs displayed for sale next to alcohol.

Police have lodged the application to suspend or cancel the store's licence, initially intending to use the case as a precedent to ban all synthetic cannabis products from liquor stores.

After the police lodged the application to rescind the liquor licence, the Government announced it would change the law to ban the sale of Kronic-type products in liquor stores, but other legal highs would still be permitted.

Police are proceeding with the test case against Liquor and Tobacco City, which still has shelves full of Kronic, Marley, Aroma and other legal highs.

Store owner Suresh Patel said he was being unfairly targeted. "They've got no right to cancel it," said Patel.

He was confident the authority would rule in his favour. Patel said it was not illegal to sell the products and he would continue to do so until the law was changed. "[The police are] in the dark, too. They're looking for the answer using us."

Sergeant Bryce Law, of the Auckland metro liquor-licensing unit, said police were basing their strategy on a Liquor Licensing Authority decision to ban party pills from bottle shops.

The Roscommon Decision ruled that an off-licence had to remove all party pills from its shelves to have a liquor-licence approved.

Last month, Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne announced that under the Misuse of Drugs Act synthetic cannabis would not be allowed to be sold where alcohol was sold or at petrol stations and recreational facilities. Amendments to the Act are expected to be introduced next month.

Before the announcement, police officers visited all Central Auckland liquor stores asking them to remove synthetic cannabis products from the shelves.

Law said most retailers had complied. "Some of them are quite happy to remove it and some wish to continue selling it until they get rid of their stock."

Some had refused. "They want to see it in writing that it's illegal to sell it and, of course, it's not illegal, which is why we're taking it to the Liquor Licensing Authority."

One retailer, who didn't want to be named, pulled all synthetic cannabis products off his shelves the day after police visited.

"The police told me to stop selling the synthetic cannabis," he said. "I didn't want to make trouble so we took it down. They gave me one day to do it."

National Drug Intelligence Bureau Detective Inspector Stuart Mills said officers from the Dunedin and Southern districts had also visited dairies.

They made owners aware of the impact of synthetic cannabis products and reminded them they were not allowed to sell it to people aged under 18.

Ministry of Justice tribunals unit manager Wayne Newall confirmed police had lodged an application for the suspension or cancellation of an off-licence for Liquor and Tobacco City. The matter will be heard on July 27.

History

June 2007: BZP, the active ingredient in "party pills", became a Class D restricted substance.
August 2007: Roscommon Decision prohibits the sale of party pills in liquor stores.
March 2008: Parliament amends the Misuse of Drugs Act to make party pills illegal.
April 2009: Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne warns that cannabis substitute Spice contains an illegal substance.
April 2010: Misuse of Drugs Amendment Bill introduced to Parliament, proposing to allow hazardous substances to be classified as restricted.
March 2011: Dunne announces the sale of synthetic cannabis will be restricted to those over 18.
June 2011: Proposed restrictions are amended to exclude sale from liquor stores and service stations.
July 2011: Australia bans eight cannabis-type substances.

- Herald on Sunday

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