Boards seek to restrict legal highs
Tighter restrictions on the sale of legal highs around schools, addiction treatment centres and mental health facilities are among the recommendations local boards are making to Auckland Council on the psychoactive substances draft local approved products policy.
Psychoactive substances – or legal highs – have been off the shelves since May when the Psychoactive Substances Amendment Act was passed.
The new law banned the sale of legal highs until new regulations come into place.
Retailers will have to prove their product is safe before they can get a licence to sell it.
Councils can set their own policy on where the products can be sold.
Auckland Council proposes that legal highs not be sold in areas of high deprivation, in neighbourhood centres as defined by the unitary plan, within 300 metres of a high school, within 100m of a primary school, within 300m of a mental health or addiction treatment centre, or within 500m of another legal high retailer.
The Albert Eden Local Board is recommending that the buffer zone around schools, mental health facilities and addiction centres be extended to one kilometre.
‘‘The whole intent of the policy is to reduce the harm to vulnerable communities. It’s about ensuring the policy is in place that minimises the harm as much as possible,’’ board member Margi Watson says.
‘‘Three hundred metres isn’t very far to walk.
‘‘We know high school students are very mobile.
‘‘We have a lot of addiction centres that are located within the community but we also have some rather big ones like the Mason Clinic and district health board addiction services.
‘‘They’re right on the edge of town centres where in theory these shops would be able to set up.
‘‘That is probably not a great outcome for some of our vulnerable communities.
‘‘If we’re not looking after our most vulnerable then we’re doing a pretty poor job’’ Watson says.
A blanket ban is out of the question, Watson and fellow board member Rachel Langton say.
‘‘It will never happen because it would fall over in the courts – that is not to say there aren’t people in the community or on the board that would like one – so we need to have a policy in place or we will go to the default policy that is set by central government,’’ Watson says.
Langton thinks many people are under the impression that the law change in May put a final ban on legal highs.
‘‘I’m pretty sure that when legal highs start being sold again many in the community will be surprised,’’ Langton says.
‘‘I think is should be an election issue,’’ she says.
Public submissions on the policy open later in the year.