New Zealand Police have taken an Indian shop-owner to licensing authority. His offence? He was selling a completely legal product.
Mr Suresh Patel, the owner of Liquor & Tobacco City in Auckland’s CBD, has been taken to Liquor Licensing Authority by the New Zealand Police, for selling synthetic cannabis, a legal product.
Mr Patel feels he was targeted by a police officer who threatened to get his licence cancelled.
New Zealand’s Liquor Licensing Authority is hearing the police’s application to cancel or vary the licence of the store.
The police alcohol harm reduction administrator, Gary Whittle, told the court he felt that synthetic cannabis products were similar to the banned party pills and should not be sold, an NZPA report said.
While Mr Whittle provided store duty manager, Mr Rishi Sharma, a copy of a ruling which said it was irresponsible to sell party pills with liquor, there was no documentary evidence provided to confirm that the synthetic cannabis products were illegal. As such, Mr Sharma refused to remove the products.
“He was telling me about how party pills were banned, but this had nothing to do with Kronic,” he told NZPA outside of court. “If there is a law I will follow every term and every word of it, but the law should be nationwide and not just for Liquor and Tobacco City.”
Mr Sharma got clarification from the police and the Ministry of Health that no such law existed.
The police clarified to NZPA that it was never their intention to take the store to court to cancel their license. The police only wanted a clarification on the issue from the authority, and the only way to do that was to apply for cancellation of the licence.
Mr Patel felt that the police were trying to cancel his licence. “If Gary (Whittle) would have given that impression in the first place – that we were going to the hearing to sort out this problem and that we were just going to be used as a test case – then the feeling would have been different. But it was intimidating – he had a very threatening approach.”
According to the NZPA report, Mr Patel said it was not the first time Mr Whittle had tried to stop them selling legal products. He had previously demanded that they stop selling single cans of alcohol. “When I asked why he said ‘because I say so’. We took it as gospel. When we saw that other shops were still selling single cans we found out from a police sergeant that we could sell them.”