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“Legal Highs” – What Next?

“Legal Highs” – What Next?

Legal highs are off the shelf for now, thanks to the Government’s temporary ban. Your local councillors are keen to use the breathing space to find out what the community wants the Council to do to control the availability of psychoactive substances once new products have been approved for sale.

Crs Merv Aoake, Ferg Ferguson, Ella Lawton and Cath Gilmour have organised a public meeting in Queenstown and a joint forum in Wanaka, to hear about the impact psychoactive substances – widely known as “legal highs” – have had on our community. It’s a chance for people to share their experiences, hear from the police and clinicians about the effects of legal highs, and find out what ability the Council has to control them.

In Wanaka, the legal high discussion will take place within the Wanaka Alcohol Group’s first Community Forum, which will continue the conversation about alcohol and drugs in the community.

“There’s no doubt psychoactive substances will be back on the streets in Queenstown and Wanaka – probably within a year,” Cr Cath Gilmour says. “We’re hearing from the agencies who take care of those suffering from addiction and withdrawal that if we don’t have controls in place, then retailers forced out of other centres will be looking to stake a claim on what it perceived to be a very lucrative market here.”

At present, the law does not allow Councils to place an outright ban on the sale of psychoactive substances that have been approved for sale under the Government’s testing and approval regime. There are lesser restrictions Councils can impose, through a bylaw or a Local Approved Product Policy (LAPP), that would prevent substances being sold, distributed or used in certain places. However, it will take months to go through the legal process needed to put any such measures in place.

“If we can get a clear steer from the community that people want the Council to put firm controls in place, then it’s possible we could have a draft LAPP on the Council agenda as early as next month,” Cr Gilmour says.

The first meetings is at the Queenstown Events Centre, Frankton, on Thursday 12 June from 7-9pm in the Mezzanine Meeting Room. The joint forum with the Wanaka Alcohol Group is at the Lake Wanaka Centre, Wanaka, on Wednesday 18 June from 7-9pm in the Armstrong Room.

Speakers will include representatives of the Police, clinicians, QLDC and also a former addict, who will talk about the impact “legal highs” had on her life.

• Psychoactive substances are known to have caused considerable damage in the Queenstown Lakes District community, including violence, psychosis, seizures, hospitalisation, anxiety and dishonesty offences.

• Until the Government introduced a ban last month, Queenstown had a retail shop for psychoactive substances; a warehouse for an Internet-based company selling psychoactive substances; and a manufacturing base for these substances. Under existing law, all three should not be producing, distributing or selling psychoactive substances.

• The Council has a limited number of options, including introducing a Local Approved Product Policy (LAPP) and amending the existing Control of Activities and Obstructions in Public Places Bylaw to prohibit the use, distribution or sale of any mind-altering substances in a public place. (Auckland Council has recently introduced a similar bylaw)

• Introducing or amending such policies and bylaws requires extensive public consultation and can take months to finalise. By beginning pre-consultation now, the Council aims to have effective measures in place to control the sale and public use of psychoactive substances by the time products are back on the market.


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