In 2014, legal highs were pushed out of businesses in CBDs around the country through bylaws that were so tough to adhere to, sellers gave up.

Back then, many "legal" or synthetic highs were manufactured commercially without industry standards, or disclosure of whatever psychoactive ingredients were in them.

Nothing has changed.

Except that a bylaw which cleaned up our CBDs has polluted our suburbs. The problem hasn't been solved, it's just moved.


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Maraenui man's death blamed on 'severe' synthetic cannabis batch

And it's grown to include manufacturing. A bad batch said to have come out of Maraenui in Napier has been linked to more than one death.

St John Ambulance have resuscitated people who have ingested "synthetic cannabis" - plant material sprayed with God knows what and sold for a $20 "sinnie".

Like a tinnie but containing synthetics, get it? S-innie. That's not a joke, by the way. It's a fact.

Four years ago, there was empathy for retailers who suddenly had "undesirables" hanging around the CBD outlets that sold this crap.

On one particular Hawke's Bay summer's day, up to 65 people were outside a shop, waiting to buy their legal "fix".

There was also the first sign of a black market emerging. A Hastings woman was arrested and charged with selling legal highs from home without a licence.

Today, the black market is far darker, and more sinister.


But where is the empathy for suburbs like Maraenui?
Out of sight, out of mind?

Cabinet sought urgent advice four weeks ago, after coronial figures showed 45 deaths linked to synthetic cannabis in New Zealand in the 12 months to June 2018.

In the previous five years, there had been two deaths.

The present Government is dismissive of National MP Simeon Brown's proposed Psychoactive Substances (Increasing Penalty for Supply and Distribution) Amendment Bill which would increase the maximum jail sentence for selling or supplying synthetic drugs from two years to eight.

It's an admirable bill but we know from the bylaw experiment that changing the law doesn't work.

Only ripping apart the dealers and sellers to stop them ripping the heart out of suburbs like Maraenui will make a difference.

Which MP has the bills to stand up and take that one on?