ODT on legal highs and cannabis

The Otago Daily Times has several features on legal highs and cannabis today.

Pair’s lives ruled by legal highs

Nathan Belcher and Aaron Macahan started using legal highs because that was what everyone else was doing.

But by the time they realised how it badly it was affecting them, it was too late.

The pair could ”easily” smoke four or five bags a day – each.

At $25 a packet, they estimate they spent $7000 on the products just this year.

Their lives followed a pattern of eating, using legal highs and sleeping. 

At their lowest, they were collecting bits of rusty metal from the foreshore, taking them to scrap yards for money – they would steal anything to fund the habit.

After a two-and-a-half-year addiction, Nathan’s health has seriously deteriorated and about three weeks ago, he vowed to ditch the habit.

Suffering kidney problems after four years of using legal highs, his friend Aaron decided to quit with him.

Legal-high retailers facing zone threat

Some Dunedin legal-high retailers could be stubbed out if a substantial exclusion zone is adopted by city councillors.

The Psychoactive Substances Act – passed by Parliament last year – means local authorities can draft a locally approved product policy (Lapp).

Dunedin City Council liquor licensing and project officer Kevin Mechen told the Otago Daily Times his draft Lapp included ”exclusion zones”.

The draft was set to go before a council workshop by the end of the month, with details ”to be teased out” by councillors, he said.

If a 100m exclusion zone was set – as in the draft policy – then at least two of the eight legal-high retailers now licensed to ply their trade in Dunedin would be affected.

An exclusion zone of 200m could potentially affect four other businesses.

Price parity with cannabis proposed

A report on synthetic cannabis recommends a raft of changes, including that the products be priced the same as cannabis.

The report, ”Synthetic Cannabinoid Use in New Zealand: Assessing the harms”, was by Dunedin-based researcher Dr Geoff Noller and commissioned by the Star Trust, on behalf of the legal-high industry.

Recommendations for the industry include highlighting the low level of harm with the product compared to alcohol, and working with local bodies and the health sector.

The report also recommended monitoring internet sales, particularly in relation to under-age consumers, and implementing minimum pricing to avoid increased consumption.

”Prices should be comparable with raw cannabis.”

”In a market where the alternative product [raw cannabis] costs almost three times as much and is illegal … the option of a legal much cheaper alternative is generally more than attractive … but particularly so for young people likely to have less disposable cash.”

Research suggested that more than 95% of synthetic cannabis consumers were likely to have previously consumed raw cannabis.

”It seems prudent that until synthetic products can clearly be shown to be less harmful than raw cannabis, the price of synthetics should not be lower than for raw cannabis.”

 

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