Are legal highs the local scape goat? What about the wider social issues?

Written by Legal Highs NZ on . Posted in Legal Highs, Synthetic Cannabis

Hamilton business owners want to drive legal high retailers out of town, blaming anti-social behavior & homelessness on the psychoactive products.

However one resident says, “legal highs are being used as a scape goat, there are much wider social issues in most towns and cities, including Hamilton”.

Everything from homelessness, joblessness and anti-social behavior on the streets is being blamed on the availability of legal highs and the retailers that sell them.

The Hamilton Central Business Association has been collecting signatures for the past two weeks and general manager Sandy Turner says the response is encouraging.

Sandy Turner suggets that there has been a noticable increase in antisocial behaviour, with hundreds of people begging, sleeping and urinating in the street. She says many of these beggars are gang affiliated and are intimidating residents and business owners.

Legal highs have been sold in New Zealand for more than ten years, however local councils and some members of the public are using these legal highs as a scape goat, they are looking for someone to blame.

“The Hamilton CBD was full of unsavory types and anti-social behaviour a LONG time before synthetic cannabis came along, this is nothing new” a Hamilton resident told us. “The legal highs stores will go, but nothing will change, the homeless people are a direct result of the failing economy, the government and the lack of support” he continues, ” we are living in different times. If jobless and homeless are not begging for money for legal highs, then it’s money for alcohol or P. The counsellors are out of touch, it’s as simple as that.”

Sandy Turner told us that the impact may simply be “perceived” and there has not been significant research to back these claims up. She suggests that having a “smoke free” CBD could help with the problem in the same way that the liqour ban has helped remove drunks from the streets.

The Waikato Times reports; Hamilton City Council took submissions from the public yesterday on psychoactive substances and licences. Hamilton City Council began a public hearing into its draft psychoactive substances policy with 525 submissions received by Monday’s deadline. The council’s draft policy identifies Te Rapa and the central city as the options for where synthetic high dealers may be located.

At times every seat inside the council’s chamber was filled as residents and business owners spoke of the damaging effects the sale of synthetic highs was having on their communities. Incidents of intimidation, theft and verbal abuse were shared by submitters alarmed by the spike in anti-social behaviour since the passing of the Government’s psychoactive substances act last year. The legislation limits the supply and sale of these products but critics say an inadvertent effect has been to concentrate anti-social behaviour around the city’s synthetic high outlets.

The Star Trust general manager Grant Hall spoke in support of synthetic legal high retailers and said that New Zealand was “leading the world” in its efforts to regulate the sale of legal highs.

The Star Trust is an industry body representing most retailers licensed under the psychoactive substances act, including eight of the nine retailers in Hamilton.

Mr Hall said that prohibition did not work and that only one per cent of users of synthetic highs were genetically predisposed to react adversely to the product.

Mr Hall said Hamilton’s experience of anti-social behaviour linked to puff shops wasn’t mirrored in larger cities such as Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland or centres such as Palmerston North.

He didn’t favour imposing a bylaw to force a lawful synthetic high retailer to shift location.

Some legal highs users told us that the Hamilton CBD is just like any other big city CBD, and there will always be homeless and jobless people looking for handouts. Methamphetamine and alcohol addictions are still much much bigger issues.

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