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The Lows of Legal Highs

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“The Lows of Legal Highs”

Polyfest 2014 will mark launch of a public campaign to educate rangatahi about the harmful effects of synthetic cannabis or legal highs and press for increased regulation around sales.

“These are chemicals our whānau are putting into their bodies and they have no idea what these chemicals are or what they do. We have no idea what long-term effects these drugs have, ” says Māori Public Health advocate, Antony Thompson.

Mr Thompson is a Practice Leader for Māori Public Health for Te Ha Oranga, a Māori health organisation under Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Whātua, and lead co-ordinator of Māori Public Health collective Whānau Whānui.

“Although a high can be as brief as five minutes, the effects of withdrawal can last several days,” he says.

For the first time Mr Thompson says his organisation will use tablets to collect survey responses from some of the 90,000 young people and their families expected to attend the popular Auckland event.

“At Polyfest we want to educate rangatahi to make informed decisions. At the same time we want to know what they think about it so we can advocate for better local and national government regulation around this kaupapa. The tablets are really portable and teen-friendly. The technology makes it so much easier to collect and collate this kind of data,” he says.

This year Auckland Council will call for submissions on local regulation of synthethic cannabis. The new Psychoactive Substances Act passed last year gives local councils the authority to limit where vendors can sell legal highs.

“Auckland is behind the eight ball. Other councils such as Hamilton, Tauranga and Palmerston North have already brought in increased regulation to restrict where vendors can sell their drugs. We are lucky to have the support of the Manurewa Local Board who are advocating for a 1km restriction zone on these stores around all schools, early childhood education centres, places of worship, community halls and community facilities but we need to do more.”

He says, “Regulation does work. When the act was passed last year the number of vendors nationwide dropped from 3-4000 outlets selling around 200-300 different products to 170 selling only about 41 products.”

“Now is the time to make it known that synthetic cannabis is no good for our whanau and is hurting the ones we love. I’m seeing other districts in New Zealand regulate and control these drugs and think its time for Auckland to do the same.”

Background information/links:

Te Hapai Hauora Tapui – Information on Legal Highs

Odyssey House

The Act

Quickfacts about the act

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