Illegal highs sting falls short
An undercover customer was turned away by two Matamata retailers suspected of illegally selling synthetic cannabis.
But an enforcement officer appointed by the Ministry of Health under the Psychoactive Substances Act said that did not mean they were in the clear.
‘‘ Those premises are on our radar now,’’ said Waikato District Health Board health protection adviser Nick Young.
‘‘They are certainly not forgot- ten about. We will continue to test them and watch them.’’
Under the act, dairies, supermarkets, service stations and alcohol stores are banned from selling synthetic cannabis or any type of legal highs.
Other retailers could only sell them if they had applied for an interim licence by August 14 last year.
No retailers in Matamata are licensed to sell the products.
It was up to police and the Ministry of Health appointed officers to monitor and enforce compliance with the act.
‘‘We work with police to check licensed people are playing by the rules and also work together when we hear information about someone who is operating without a licence,’’ said Young.
Undercover stings, officially known as controlled purchase operations, were a way of testing that information, he said.
‘‘ The trouble with these operations is businesses that are selling when they shouldn’t be may only sell to people that they know.
‘‘If a stranger walks in and asks for something they may turn them away.
‘‘I’m not saying that was the case [in Matamata] but that could be the case.’’
Outcomes could also differ depending on the day, time, staff, and undercover person, he said.
‘‘You may return the next day and it could be a different result.’’
Young, along with Sergeant Graham McGurk of Matamata police, urged anyone with information about the sale of synthetic cannabis to come forward.
‘‘It could be that we might get information from a different source about the same places, which really makes your prick up,’’ said Young.
Regulations around the act are still to be confirmed later this year, said Young.
‘‘ With any new legislation, there’s always a kind of settling in period if you like.
‘‘It’s very much a work in progress but we have a very good relationship with the police.’’
If you have information about the sale of legal highs in Matamata you can contact police on 888 7117 or, to remain anonymous, contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.