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Fake dope highs stubbed out as ban cuts in

Aug 17th, 2011 | By | Category: Front Page Layout, Latest News, News

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SYNTHETIC cannabis products are now off the shelves of Wellington’s biggest legal highs outlet, Cosmic Corner headquarters on Cuba St.

In accordance with the Government’s 12-month ban that kicked in today, staff at Cosmic removed the products from show before opening for business, and had the space filled with other merchandise by midday.

Detective Inspector Stuart Mills says he expects things to go smoothly as retailers like Cosmic adjust to the new law.

“If [the ban] is adhered to, then I think the sensible approach will be taken by police and it’s business as usual. Other products can carry on,” he says.

EARLIER STORY – AUGUST 15

This week is last chance for legal dope highs

TUESDAY night this week is last call for synthetic cannabis as the Government’s 12-month ban goes into effect – and some retailers are struggling to adjust.

Cosmic Corner owner Mark Carswell (right) says the ban’s passage last week caught him and his staff by surprise.

However, police say they will use a common sense approach. They are expected to allow retailers time to adjust.

Mr Carswell says while Cosmic will survive due to the diversification of their products, they will have difficulty changing direction.

“Businesses are like oil tankers,” he says. “You sign leases that are six years long. You employ staff with the expectation they will be there for the long term.

“All indications from the Government, including Peter Dunne, were that they were talking regulation, and what they’ve gone to is the old classic prohibition.

“We were taking them on their word that regulation was going to happen and that’s where our focus had been.”

As of Wednesday, it will be illegal to manufacture, import, export, sell or supply synthetic cannabis, with penalties ranging from a $1000 fine to eight years in prison.

National Drug Intelligence Bureau co-ordinator Detective Inspector Stuart Mills says police will take a proactive, “common sense” approach with retailers this week.

“I don’t think law enforcement will be up there hammering down the doors on Tuesday or Wednesday morning.”

Enforcement of the ban will be similar to when BZP-based party pills were banned in 2008, he says.

Officers will start by reminding retailers of the ban and the consequences of selling illegal substances.

Penalties for breaking the new law will depend on the circumstances and the track record of the business involved.

Any new products entering the market will be handled with a co-ordinated response from Customs, the Ministry of Health and police.

Responding to claims that the ban will create an underground market for synthetic cannabis, Mr Mills says that is unlikely because the products are difficult to manufacture and stockpiles will eventually run out.

“We’ll just have to see what happens and take it from there,” he says.

Retailers should be prepared, because the legal highs ban has been well publicised in the media over the past few weeks.

“Obviously people would have known it was going to happen, and obviously they’ve had a week to prepare while these notices have come to force.”

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