Local authorities are dealing with another hospital pass from central government.

This time it involves regulating the sale of synthetic cannabis at a local level. Legislators had an uphill battle trying to find ways to regulate the industry, which was quick to adapt to changes.

In the end, Parliament passed the Psychoactive Substances Act with only one dissenting vote - that of ACT MP John Banks.

Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne established the view that the only way to control the industry was to legalise the least harmful substances, establish a testing regime, control the number of outlets and ban any sales to those under 18.


The Psychoactive Substances Regulatory Authority has now asked every council in New Zealand to come up with rules surrounding the sale of legal highs in their cities and this has brought pressure from different lobby groups.

Reporter Natalie Dixon today reports that legal high protesters are calling for Tauranga City Council to use Hamilton as an example as work starts on a policy restricting the sale of synthetic cannabis.

Hamilton's policy puts buffer zones of 100 meters around sensitive sites such as places of worship and schools, and imposed a 500-metre boundary between retailers, effectively pushing them out of town.

Given that Hamilton's policy is already the subject of a legal challenge from a legal high advocacy group, The Star Trust, Tauranga should proceed with caution.

The question is whether it is preferable to control the sale of synthetic cannabis by limiting the number of outlets and opening hours or use a loophole in the legislation to apply a total ban. The downside of having a total ban is that it will drive the trade underground and that creates problems of its own.

Tauranga councillors appear divided on the issue. Some favour a total ban while others prefer to work within the intent of the legislation.

Pressure groups should be lobbying central government rather than local authorities, who need to work within the legislation put in front of them.