Impassioned calls for drug ban

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Impassioned pleas for council to ban or further restrict the sale of psychoactive substances rang around the Waitaki District Council’s chambers yesterday, as submissions on council’s Local Approved Products Policy (LAPP) were heard.

Of the 28 submissions received, four were presented verbally.

Grey Power North Otago secretary Graeme Leather said the organisation was not impressed from the first time it laid eyes on the proposed LAPP.

“When we first looked at the proposal, there was a lot of anger and disappointment that we didn’t have an opportunity to say no.”

While council can restrict where legal highs can be sold, it does not have the power to ban them.

He said the group wanted to see the restricted area around sensitive sites extended to at least 75m from the present 50m.

Greypower also had concerns for the safety of the elderly, he said, citing the violent robbery of an elderly resident last year as an example of the type of crime that he said would be fueled by legal high addiction.

Greypower wanted to see any stores selling legal highs to advertise the fact they sold them – so customers who opposed legal highs could go elsewhere – and refer to them as “mind-altering substances”.

However, Cr June Slee said that was “emotive” language and anywhere that sold liquor might be expected to do the same.

Bernard Wilkinson told council to “be bold” and extend the restricted area around sensitive sites to 1km. He implored council to take a stand against government legislation.

“I hope this council might have a bit of backbone and say we won’t have them … the consequences might be quite interesting.”

Louisa Burrell said honest testing and distribution of legal highs was paramount, and wanted to see eating establishments classed as sensitive sites.

“I would like to to add cafes and restaurants … we do not want anyone on the drugs frequenting and disrupting our enjoyment of a cup of coffee or a meal when we go out.

“We want the Government to stop being so jelly-belly and scared … stand up as the Government and do something about these drugs.”

Father Wayne Healey described the restrictions around sensitive sites as “rubbish” and like Mr WIlkinson, encouraged council to take a stand.

“Why not challenge the government?

“If you don’t stand up you’re giving the wrong message to the people.

“Our hands are not tied.

“I’m sure you will get backing from the ratepayers and people of this place.”

After hearing submissions, councillors discussed the LAPP.

Cr Melanie Tavendale said the policy was a “good compromise” considering council couldn’t ban legal highs, while Cr Hugh Perkins suggested the possibility of no point-of-sale advertising and plain packaging for legal highs.

Cr Jim Hopkins said the policy showed council had “displayed backbone”, and suggested the possibility of liquor ban-style restrictions.

Council will discuss the policy further at a workshop before adopting it on April 15.

By Daniel Birchfield