Puff shops stubbed out in Hamilton's CBD?

By Sacha Harwood -
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The chairperson of Hamilton City Council's strategy and policy committee, Angela O'Leary this week led deliberations on the draft Psychoactive Substances Policy.
The chairperson of Hamilton City Council's strategy and policy committee, Angela O'Leary this week led deliberations on the draft Psychoactive Substances Policy.

Hamilton looks set to become the first place in New Zealand to shut down all puff shops in its city boundary.

It will now rest with the Ministry of Health to revoke the licences of those selling synthetic cannabis after Hamilton City Council yesterday moved to implement a policy dictating where the products could be sold.

Under the Psychoactive Substances Policy, no store can be located within 100m of a "sensitive" site, such as churches and schools. The original list of sensitive sites has been expanded to include the Waikato River, river walkways, bus stops, medical centres and pharmacies. No store currently operating in Hamilton would be compliant under the policy.

Hearings on Hamilton City Council's controversial psychoactive substances policy were held last week, with 59 percent of submitters asking for sales to be limited to the central city only. About 34 per cent of submitters asked that sales be restricted to Te Rapa only.

The strategy and policy committee, chaired by Angela O'Leary, voted on Wednesday to adopt the new policy, identifying the central city as the preferred location for legal high sales. The decision was expected to be ratified at a full council meeting yesterday.

However, it's unclear as to how long it could take the Ministry of Health to revoke the stores' licences.

"No thought was given to the effects on our community when the government was drafting this legislation," said Ms O'Leary.

Mayor Julie Hardaker said the council has made the best of a bad situation. "We've given the Ministry [of Health] guidelines for when they issue licenses.

"I think it is a good policy, but it is making the best of a bad situation. It is out of our hands now."

Councillors expressed their concern over public expectation as to what would happen once the policy was passed.

"The expectation may well be that the Hamilton City Council will close down the Hamilton East puff shop," Councillor Ewan Wilson said.

"I'd like to thank our friends in central government; I have never seen such appallingly drafted legislation. Who would draft legislation and forget to put regulatory frame work in place?"

The Psychoactive Substances Regulation Authority will make the decision on whether or not the policy is implemented.

"If we're going to sell this drug it's better to be sold where people can see the [effect] of it. We have to remind the public that the Hamilton East shop will not be closing on Wednesday.

"But the wonderful news is they do get to vote in October when it comes to central government options," Mr Wilson said.

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