“Time for the Council to Act on Psychoactives”

A column by National minister Hon Michael Woodhouse, first published in The Star. While it is directed at the Dunedin City Council it could be applicable in other places.

Time for the Council to Act on Psychoactives

Last year Parliament overwhelmingly supported the passing of the Psychoactive Substances Act. This legislation is designed to ensure that so-called “legal highs” can only be sold following rigorous testing to ensure they are not harmful. This follows a number of high-profile hospital admissions, motor vehicle crashes and violent offenses by people under the influence of psychoactive substances.

In developing the legislation a transitional framework was put in place. It provides for the interim licensing of some products and sellers. The interim regime has resulted in the number of retailers nationally dropping from an estimated 3,000 – 4,000, to around 156, and the number of products available from an estimated 300, to 41. No new retail outlets are permitted until the interim period ends – expected to be mid-2015.

The Act also provides for local councils to implement a Locally Approved Product Policy (LAPP). Such a policy can regulate the location of premises from which products may be sold, including the minimum distance from other premises, for example kindergartens, schools, churches and health facilities.

Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne was recently critical of Councils’ tardiness in putting LAPPs in place, stating “To say I have been disappointed by the response of the vast majority of local authorities to the Act is an understatement. Instead of getting on with developing and implementing LAPPs, the vast majority of local authorities opted instead to engage in media debate over the merits of the Psychoactive Substances Act, passed 119 – 1 by Parliament less than 8 months ago”. I agree with his comments.

It appears the Dunedin City Council is one of those slow to act in implementing a LAPP. It shouldn’t be. Parliament has given it a tool to restrict the location of licensed outlets. It needs to take that action.

The Hamilton City Council (having approved their LAPP earlier this year) recently suspended the interim retail licenses of all six psychoactive substance product retailers in the Hamilton area. The suppliers of these products, obviously upset at the action, have sought a judicial review of the decision. That is their right, but he hearing could take some time.  The Dunedin City Council should not slow its own work as a consequence of that action, or deviate from its responsibility to speedily implement its own LAPP, in order to reflect our community’s view that substances of this nature should be restricted in their availability.

I call on the Dunedin City Council to implement its LAPP quickly and suspend licenses of retailers operating outside the parameters of that policy.

Page 11 in Thursday, March 20, 2014 issue of The Star

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