Legal highs policy adopted
After an intense and at times emotional two hour debate council today adopted a policy to restrict the sale of psychoactive substances (legal highs) in Kāpiti.
The policy will ensure that 99.9% of the district will be protected from any future retail sales of legal highs.
In his final comments before the vote Mayor Ross Church acknowledged the valuable contribution to the debate of a group of young people who told council about their personal experiences with legal highs and the damage they can do.
He said he had allowed the debate to continue for two hours in recognition of the importance of this issue for the people of Kāpiti.
“It would be better if there were no sales anywhere. It’s abundantly clear the community does not want legal highs sold here and we will continue to strongly lobby the government for a total ban.”
Council developed and sought community feedback on a draft local approved products policy (LAPP) in 2014/15. The draft policy identified part of the industrial and airport zones west of the expressway land on Kāpiti Road as the most appropriate location for sales in the district.
In response to community concerns raised during the consultation, the policy now has a smaller area where legal highs could be sold, with a larger 200 metre buffer area to protect a school proposed for the area. It also extends the definition of a sensitive site to include residential retirement facilities.
Councillor Diane Ammundsen who chairs council’s regulatory management committee, says a thorough process was followed to map the district, identifying all residential areas and sensitive sites such as schools, community facilities and places of worship. “We then looked at where the least harm could be done if a legal high sales outlet was located nearby.
“Because pockets of retail and commercial premises are dotted amongst housing throughout Kāpiti, it is possible that, without the policy, the Ministry of Health could grant a licence to sell legal highs from an outlet near to where people live. Other processes such as district planning may not be able to prevent this happening.
“Council has strongly opposed the law change that makes a local approved products policy necessary and will continue to urge the Government to amend the law so a ban could be imposed.”
The Psychoactive Substances Act allows local councils to restrict where psychoactive substances (legal highs) can be sold in their district, but not ban them. The Ministry of Health will be guided by the policy when issuing licences in the designated areas to retail outlets that are allowed to sell legal highs.
The law says tests must prove there is a low risk of harm before any substances can be approved for sale. Rules for testing are now in place although no products have yet been approved for sale.