Synthetic ‘cannabis’ crisis

I don’t think that what is referred to as ‘synthetic cannabis’ is cannabis, as I understand it it is plant material laced with a wide variety of drugs.

One of the problems is that users often have no idea what drugs they are taking. Another is not doing how potent any drugs are.

There has been an outbreak of deaths and admissions to hospital due to the use and abuse of synthetic concoctions.

RNZ: Synthetic cannabis crisis: ‘We need to be working together on this’

Police are being accused of failing to pass on crucial information about synthetic cannabis to those who are dealing with the drug at the coal face.

The death toll has risen to eight after a 24-year-old man suspected of taking the drug died at Middlemore Hospital last night.

Police had known about a very strong kind of synthetic cannabis being used, called AMB-FUBINACA, for over a year now but only recently shared information about it with other organisations, Drug Foundation chief executive Ross Bell said.

READ MORE:Synthetic Cannabis: The killer high

The cannabinoid was more than 75 times more potent that THC, the active ingredient in natural cannabis, and over the past year had become the most commonly detected type of cannabinoid in its lab, ESR Forensic Chemistry Manager Kevan Walsh said.

“It’s gained some notoriety overseas… some have referred to it as a zombie drug,” he said.

The results of ESR’s testing were passed to the police, who were its clients, and it was up to them to share the information, Mr Walsh said.

However, police said they could not always share information if it related to coronial investigations or if it was before the court.

Mr Bell said that needed to change, especially in times of a public health crisis.

“There does need to be a clear protocol or process in place where that very important information is made more widely available to people like us, or drug treatment agencies, when the police make these discoveries, rather than sitting on the information,” he said.

Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne agreed information between police and other authorities -including himself – needed to improve.

He said an emergency response unit was being set up between Auckland health authorities and police to try and and get a handle on the situation.

“There’s certainly been a problem in getting the information from police. I was a little surprised to get less than a couple of hours notice of their announcement last Friday. There’s been no contact with my office at all on this.”

“We need to be working together on this,” he said.

A special incident response unit is being set up at the Auckland District Health Board in conjunction with police, to try and get a handle on what synthetic cannabis products are being used and how it can be stopped, Mr Dunne said.

Auckland Police said they still had no idea where the drug was coming from and were asking for the public’s help.

Acting Detective Inspector Peter Florence said it was “a big worry” that people were taking synthetic cannabis.

NZ Herald:  Synthetic cannabis ‘worse than meth’ according to addiction specialist

A drug counsellor says the effects of synthetic cannabis can be worse than meth, with users kept up for days and sometimes being driven into psychosis.

Clinical director of Alcohol & Drug Assessment & Counselling (ADAC) Roger Brooking said the drug was far stronger than most users realised.

“It tends to keep them awake for days on end, much like methamphetamine does.

“My experience would be that it drives people psychotic, or at least in that direction, more quickly than methamphetamine.

“It’s a lot more addictive than the plant cannabis, it has no business being called cannabis.

“Normal cannabis, it’s kind of psychologically addictive, but not physically addictive.

“But the synthetic chemicals being used seem to be a lot more addictive, and once people start they find it very hard to stop.”

This has become a major and dangerous issue, and again raises the question of why natural cannabis is still illegal. It has it’s own risks but it is far better known and far l;ess a risk than many other drugs.

Brooking believed there needed to be big changes to stop the problem getting any worse, including decriminalising cannabis.

“I mean, if I was in charge of this I’d decriminalise all illicit drugs, as they have in Portugal.

“Because these drugs are illegal, when people use them and get caught they get steered into the justice system instead of getting steered into the health system.

“For the average user, these cause health problems rather than legal problems.

“If cannabis was decriminalised, people wouldn’t have to go looking for some of these other substances.”

But the National led government has been strongly against relaxing laws on cannabis.

Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne agreed that a “significant part” of problem was that synthetic cannabis was banned, and then driven underground.

He said he had spoken to Prime Minister Bill English about the idea of regulating the drug, and would “keep the discussion going”.

“Had we had a regulated market in place, this stuff would have had to be submitted for testing before being sold.

“Because its been driven underground we don’t know what it is, it’s not being tested, and we’re dealing with consequences. We’re playing catch-up all over again.

“There are so many new psychoactive substances coming down the pipeline, whether this is a blip or the start of a flood, we just don’t know.”

We will forever be reacting to the adverse effects of illegal drug use unless we take a different approach to cannabis.

Leave a comment


  1. Kevin

     /  27th July 2017

    I’ve mentioned this link in open forum but I think it’s appropriate here:‘spice’-problem-and-what-do-about-it-because-you-won’t-find-answer-new-uk-drug-strategy

    In places like Holland where cannabis is legally available there is no market for synthetic cannabis.

    “Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne agreed that a “significant part” of problem was that synthetic cannabis was banned, and then driven underground.

    He said he had spoken to Prime Minister Bill English about the idea of regulating the drug, and would “keep the discussion going”.

    “Had we had a regulated market in place, this stuff would have had to be submitted for testing before being sold.

    “Because its been driven underground we don’t know what it is, it’s not being tested, and we’re dealing with consequences. We’re playing catch-up all over again”

    Dunne is correct although by not mentioning the ban on animal testing he’s not being completely honest. As well as legalising cannabis we need to remove the ban on animal testing so that we have a properly working Psychoactive Substances Act.

  2. artcroft

     /  27th July 2017

    Isn’t this just Darwinism doing its thing?

    • Kitty Catkin

       /  27th July 2017

      Shame on you. Have you never done anything stupid ?

      It’s all but impossible for me to understand why anyone would use this stuff, but it’s a horrible way to die.

  3. Reply
  4. Ray

     /  27th July 2017

    I see the druggies at saying “if only cannabis was legal” this wouldn’t happen.
    So what’s wrong with legal booze?

    • a few points Ray, to consider:

      1) booze/alcohol IS a DRUG too

      2) the legal drugs kill more people than all the ‘illegal ones’; Tobacco 5k & Alcohol >1k/year in NZ

      3) official number of deaths from Natural Cannabis; ZERO !

      ‘so whats wrong with legal booze’
      Some experts say, IF it was on a level playing field, tobacco would be a Class A & alcohol would be a Class B drug.. cannabis is Class C
      btw; may I suggest you do a little research before you write such TOTAL B-S

    • Kevin

       /  27th July 2017

      Well some of us (myself included) aren’t that fond of alcohol and would like a choice where we don’t risk our lives just because what we bought from some dodgy dealer isn’t what we think it is. For the record I don’t do cannabis but if I did then last time I would have done it would have been late last year so I don’t believe I fit into what you’d call the druggie camp.

      Anyway imagine if alcohol was made illegal. The death rate or harm from alcohol poisoning would skyrocket. And if it was legal again the death rate or harm would plummet. Now apply the same reasoning to illegal drugs. Keep them illegal death rate or harm caused stays up, legalise them death rate or harm goes down.

      • Kitty Catkin

         /  27th July 2017

        The analogy with alcohol is meaningless, as most people who drink don’t do it to excess or die from it and I suspect that the death/ill-effects rate per capita between this vile drug sold by vile people and alcohol are not at all the same. The numbers of alcohol-related deaths is probably higher-but not on a per capita basis.

        I used to smoke dope socially, but have a terror and horror of hard drugs, I couldn’t tell you when I last drank alcohol-I’m not that fond of it, don’t want to spend money on it that I could spend on other things and see it as empty calories. Having lost a lot of weight, I am wary of empty calories.

        The police must be in a cleft stick over this one, as they are bound by laws of confidentiality etc-damned if they do, damned if they don’t.

  5. In 2013 this Govt. passed the ‘psychoactive substance act’ that temporarily legalised ‘synthetic cannabis’ (Dunne said ‘its low risk’) BUT they refused to allow NATURAL Cannabis to be included, why ?

    Now they wonder why people are getting sick & dying from smoking mixed herbs with unknown chemicals sprayed on.. (called ‘synthetic cannabis’) & Natz still refuse to regulated the natural stuff.. still saying things like ‘there is NO evidence that it will reduce harm’
    How F@cking ridiculous is that ??

    Dunne & Co. started this mess & now they are running for cover & refuse to address ‘the elephant in the room’ : IF they allowed natural herb CANNABIS, then the majority would probably avoid ‘synthetics’ like the plague !

    The other issue I hear; some use ‘synthetics’ because they dont show up in workplace/MSD drug tests. Is that really a good reason to put your life at risk with this CRAP ?! 😦 😦

    methinks there are ‘other agendas’ at work here .. & some say I’m CRAZY…

    • Bill

       /  27th July 2017

      I agree Zedd, the word Cannabis shouldn’t be used when describing this product other than the fact it’s FAKE CANNABIS and how did we get to this point, prohibition of a safe plant that’s how.

      The fact we now expect our Police force to find every last drop of this utter crap to ensure public safety is unrealistic to say the least and if a more pragmatic approach isn’t adopted by our Government around the use of drugs in society we are priming ourselves for even more examples of these deadly money making scams.

      While watching the news last night, I heard it stated that this FAKE DEADLY drug is 70 times stronger than real Cannabis, this claim could only be described as FAKE NEWS. When the product in question hasn’t even been chemically identified yet and means about as much as me saying, it’s 20 times stronger than Alcohol.

      I mean come on NZ, I don’t think their is anybody still out there than doesn’t realise this CRAP has absolutely nothing to do with CANNABIS full stop.

      • Well said Bill.. & yet the media seem to ‘get off’ on making these comparisons, which to my mind seems to be more about, further demonising the natural Herb, by calling these substances (which Dunne alleged, were ‘lower risk’) ‘synthetic CANNABIS’ when in fact, tests prove they contain no THC/CBDs which are active ingrediants in the cannabis plant.

        I heard a host on talkback, recently saying ‘the natural herb, is MORE harmful’ I wonder what they were smoking ?

        As I’ve said before; comparing these ‘drugs’ to cannabis is a bit like calling Kerosene or Meths; ‘synthetic Whisky’ ?!

        • Kitty Catkin

           /  27th July 2017

          It’s like saying fake leather or silk-one knows what that means, that it’s like leather or silk but isn’t the real thing. Changing the name now would just add to the confusion. We all know that synthetic cannabis is something that purports to have the effect of cannabis, which lulls people into a false sense of security.

          I somehow doubt if this brand (so to speak) is what Peter Dunne et al were all right with. There is no way that this would be made legal.

  6. Maggy Wassilieff

     /  27th July 2017

    Somebody is lacing dried plant material with lethal poison.

    This person is a killer. Why aren’t they being hunted down by every cop/soldier in the country?

    If we had a sniper/terrorist at loose who had killed 8 people and wounde numerous others in Auckland over the last month, the whole shebang would be in lockdown.

    Why do I get the impression that it’s business as usual?

    • Kitty Catkin

       /  27th July 2017

      I have no idea why you have that wrong impression.

      A sniper would be visible and much more easily traceable. The people selling this poison are all but impossible to trace; they are not stupid enough to leave a trail. What good would a soldier be ? Where would they start ? Do you imagine that the users know who the makers are ? I doubt it.

      By the time the person has the reaction that the most extreme cases have, the sellers (who are unlikely to be the makers) and buyers are in different places.

      Of course it’s not business as usual. If you watched the news, you would see that everything that can be done is being done-but if you have a way to stop this scourge, please share it.

  1. Synthetic ‘cannabis’ crisis — Your NZ – NZ Conservative Coalition
  2. Mass killing by poison | Your NZ

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