‘Synthetic cannabis’ crisis requires urgent action

Synthetic drugs, inaccurately referred to as ‘synthetic cannabis’, have been causing major problems for years. The National government got spooked by bad publicity and neutered a ground breaking way of dealing with them in 2013  – Psychoactive Substances Bill a ‘game-changer’ but National lost the plot after some adverse publicity.

But these drugs are still a major problem – in part because of Parliament’s failure to address the ongoing failure of current drug laws, especially for cannabis which is far safer than synthetics.

National have tried to address things through a Member’s bill, but this has been slammed: ‘Naive nonsense’ – Peter Dunne slams Simeon Brown’s bill increasing synthetic cannabis penalties, saying it just won’t work

Former Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne has slammed a member’s Bill proposing to increase penalties for dealing synthetic drugs, saying penalties simply will not solve the problem.

Numerous deaths, especially in the Auckland region, were attributed to deadly batches of synthetic drugs last year.

Pakuranga MP Simeon Brown’s Bill, which would amend the Psychoactive Drugs Act 2013, would increase the penalty for dealing the substances from two years in prison to 8 years, and has passed its first reading.

National’s Mr Brown wrote that “this Bill is necessary in order to protect our communities and young people from these harmful drugs, to deter those who are supplying them into the market, and to give Police stronger powers to crack down on suppliers”.

Mr Dunne, speaking this morning with TVNZ 1’s Breakfast called Mr Brown’s Bill “naive nonsense” and put it down to being an “easy win” for him.

“It’s been the easy one over the years – make the penalties tougher, hit those who are supplying,” Mr Dunne said.

“There is a case for changing the penalties, because they are a bit out of line with the Misuse of Drugs Act, but to suggest that is the answer is simply naive nonsense.”

Mr Dunne said synthetic drugs were under control in 2013, but parliament had backtracked due to “moral panic” from the public about the drugs.

“These drugs had actually been on the market for years – we’d brought them under control,” he said.

“Parliament then backtracked and decided to change the law and the consequence of that, plus the unrelated but pretty important issue of a ban on animal testing of these substances, meant the law has been stymied for the last four years and the market’s gone underground.

“The only way to get on top of it is to go back to what the Psychoactive Substances Act was all about – have products tested for the level of risk and sold properly through regulated stores.”

Mr Dunne said increasing penalties would  be popular with Mr Brown’s constituents, but it would not solve the problem.

“The problem is, because this market is underground and is expanding, we’ve lost control of it.

RNZ:  Govt departments urged to find solution on synthetic cannabis

Government agencies have been asked to urgently find ways to reduce the harm caused by synthetic cannabis.

Figures from the Coroner show 40 to 45 people died in the year to June because of synthetic cannabis, compared with two deaths in the previous five years.

Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters said the ministers of health, justice, police and customs would seek advice from their agencies and put their heads together to find the best solution.

“There has been a lot of work on this in the past but I think we have to be honest in that we haven’t come up with the kind of solutions which have seen a turnaround or a victory against the people who are peddling this stuff.”

Mr Peters would not rule out including part of National Party MP Simeon Brown’s bill, which would increase the maximum jail sentence for selling or supplying synthetic drugs from two years to eight.

“The police say that that would not work.”

RNZ:  Synthetic cannabis crisis: ‘They are looking for help now on the ground’ – Drug Foundation

The Drug Foundation wants the government to come up with a practical response to the synthetic cannabis crisis, not a bureaucratic one.

Executive director of the Drug Foundation Ross Bell said his fear was that officials would look at policy responses or suggest tougher penalties – neither of which was a solution.

“We need action on the ground now, if you see a lot of the community voices, the parents who have suffered tragedy here, they’re not looking for policy responses, they’re not looking for tougher penalties, they are are looking for help now on the ground.”

Mr Bell said there were practical things that government agencies could be doing now, or should have been doing last year in response to this.

He said part of that was sharing information much more quickly.

“So that St John Ambulance for example, knows what the hell is going on, getting resources on the ground, helping those communities that are experiencing these issues, getting resources there around harm reduction, drug treatment and making sure people who need help don’t have to sit on a waiting list for so long.”

Mr Peters said it couldn’t be denied that governments had tried and failed to address the issues around synthetic cannabis.

“We have to look at what we’ve been talking about in the past and reviewing in the past, and with a multiplicity of agencies set out to provide some serious solutions and as fast as possible.”

But continuing to fail to deal with laws and policing related to natural cannabis is  apart of the problem.

Winston’s insistence of a referendum won’t cut it – it needs urgent and decisive action from those in power in Parliament.

2/2 The challenge now is to make that Act work as intended, not waste time reinventing the wheel while people die

Leave a comment


  1. Griff.

     /  31st July 2018

    Legalize the real thing.
    Problem solved.
    The reefer madness generation could not have that .
    Might reduce the amount of piss sold and the number of knighthoods given out to alcohols dealers.

    • That’s a simplistic solution, alas,

      The reefer madness generation was the 1930s. If you mean Douglas Meyers, he’s hardly a dealer.

      I would like to see cannabis legal, but from what I remember it doesn’t give the same high as the synthetics seem to, so wonder if these are two different markets.

      It may have been a bad idea to take the OTC ones off the market.

      • Griff.

         /  31st July 2018

        I would include in reefer madness as the generations up to and even past Nixon’s war on black people and hippy’s drugs

        • Kitty Catkin

           /  31st July 2018

          I would love to see the film that coined the name 😀

          • Griff.

             /  31st July 2018

            Google it can be found on you tube.
            It is funny as.

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  31st July 2018

              I have seen excerpts and seen the posters.

              That poor girl 😀 😀 😀

              Have you seen the one with the syringe ?

  2. PartisanZ

     /  31st July 2018

    As far as I’m concerned, Dunne originally had the option of freeing the Spaniels of Cannabis with or without the Pit Bulls of Synthetic Highs and he chose to unleash the Attack Dog Breeds only …

    In great part, the “moral panic” was the sheer numbers of [poor] people who presented themselves daily at Pit Bull Bite, Rip’n’Flesh-Tearing outlets …

    How many would have done so if Spaniel Petting had also been legalized?

    If we were any closer to legalising the Spaniels, one might argue we needed to feel the bite, rip and flesh-tearing of Pitbulls before we came around … or woke up … but that doesn’t seem to be the case …

    Regulate the fuck out of synthetics … but don’t expect too much to change while the two-faced hypocrites delay the only obvious course of action … Legalize and regulate cannabis medicinally, therapeutically and ‘recreationally’ …

    • Dunne recently revealed that he was restricted and shafted by National.

      • Kevin

         /  1st August 2018

        National is trying to change the debate by strictly defining medical cannabis as medical products derived from cannabis. This is because they know that legalising medical cannabis as in the natural leaf is a short step to legalisation for recreational use.

    • Griff.

       /  31st July 2018

      Dunne was not responsible for that.
      National refused to allow any substance already banned to be included in the law .
      Hence we got more dangerous synthetics than the original k2 and cannabis was not on the table.

  3. PartisanZ

     /  31st July 2018

    In that case I’d respect him if he hadn’t played the hand National dealt him …

    45+ people might not have lost their lives …

    • PartisanZ

       /  31st July 2018

      To be really skeptical about it, National/United Future saw and took the easy ‘create an industry’ option … which cannabis does not present being on a much larger scale …

      They and their supporters [and the ‘middle-class’ of every political ilk] then saw pictures of the rather ‘distasteful’ underbelly of society their policies over 30+ years has created … and shied away from ‘feeding’ them the opiate they so obviously crave …

      There may have been pressure from Liquor too?

      “Those are our hard-core Westie drinkers lining up there at 8am to buy this stuff” …?

  4. Trevors_elbow

     /  31st July 2018



    I have some shit we made in a lab from some chemicals … want to try it?

    Ummmm does it get me off?

    Hell yeah!!!!


    Dumbarses taking shit they have no idea about who then trip out or die… I have zero empathy or sympathy for…

    Sorry… just dont care… roll the dice take ya chances….no one knows how their individual body chemistry will react with any intoxicant compound .. doesn’t matter if it’s from a lab…distillery…or grown in Coromandel or Te Puke…. takes your chances for a high and die… well that’s your choice to try it and it’s your problem when it goes wrong. .

    • Zedd

       /  31st July 2018

      actually Trev.. I hear what you are saying.. but unfortunately the law does drive some to use alternatives.. BUT I would not try some ‘backyard synthetics’ which I hear was found to contain FLY SPRAY, on at least one case !!

      • I heard weedkiller…..

        The law doesn’t drive people to these things, the people themselves do. There’s no market without willing buyers.

  5. Zedd

     /  31st July 2018

    I tried ‘kronic’ once.. because I couldnt get the herb & curiosity too.. it did give a similar effect, BUT tasted totally different (chemical) & gave a ‘hangover’; felt irritable for a day or two after.. never get that from the herb. If herb was more available I would avoid synthetics ‘like the plague !’

    answering kitty; yes they are not the same, BUT most folks I know tried it for similar reasons & would just prefer the natural herb.. of course some may actually prefer synthetics, but Im guessing not many ! :/

    I think it was Neil Finn who reportedly also said ‘If you want to get rid of these synthetics.. legalise the real stuff’ 🙂

    btw; whilst the chemicals are intended to mimic THC, it is NOT ‘Synthetic cannabis’ the substrate is often ‘mixed law clippings or similar’

    • I would prefer things like ‘Kronic’ to be sold if it’s them or the ones that may kill someone !

      I’d prefer neither to be sold, but I am not that naive.

      • Zedd

         /  1st August 2018

        ‘Kronic’ was one of the ‘products’ sold legally.. until they changed the law again; I heard it was actually close to THC.. in chemical content, BUT was still a chemical, not the natural herb which I’d prefer ‘any day ending in Y’ 🙂

        • Kitty Catkin

           /  1st August 2018

          I remember the name because of the spelling.

          How do you feel about these things becoming illegal and opening the gate to the muck that’s around now ?

  6. Zedd

     /  31st July 2018

    ‘Synthetic cannabis’ crisis requires urgent action; Legally regulate natural herb cannabis ASAP.. enuf sed 🙂

    forget all the naysayers & Natl; constantly ‘muddying the waters’ !

  7. Kevin

     /  1st August 2018

    Synthetic cannabis is cannabis. It works on the same receptors as natural cannabis. Just because a lake is man-made doesn’t mean it isn’t the lake. The difference of course is that synthetic cannabis is a lot stronger.

    • Griff.

       /  1st August 2018

      It is not cannabis. Not even THC the psychoactive constituent in cannabis that gets you high
      It is a synthetic product that behaves in a similar manner to THC but is not the same.
      One of many such drugs.
      Many truck drivers etc use synthetics because it does not show up on drug tests for cannabis.

      • Zedd

         /  1st August 2018

        tautoko Griff.. cannabis is the plant, not the chemicals (or synthetics that mimic them)
        methinks that some still use this term, because it adds to all the negative stereotyping that some (prohibition industry etc.) want to continue.. status quo 😦


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