Il­le­gal highs st­ing falls short

Matamata Chronicle - - Front Page - By NI­COLA STE­WART ni­cola.ste­

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.


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