Sythetic cannabis product K2. Image by Craig Baxter.
Synthetic cannabis product K2 will be removed from sale
next week, but it might have been sold containing previously
Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne yesterday confirmed a
temporary class drug notice had been issued, which
effectively bans the substance EAM-2201 found in tested
samples of K2.
That notice will mean as of December 6 it will be illegal to
import, manufacture, sell or supply the substance.
Mr Dunne, when asked if K2 might contain any other substances
of concern, said "it may well, in some instances, contain
substances that have already been banned".
"That has certainly been suggested to me that that is a
To date, 50 substances found in 30 products have been banned,
and anyone importing, making or supplying those banned
substances could face up to eight years in prison.
"I suspect now that a lot of the products out there will be
reformulations of existing products, and the likelihood of
them being comprised to some extent or another of the banned
substances is reasonably high."
Mr Dunne expressed concern with the delay in testing the
product, and said it underscored the importance of a move
towards a permanent psychoactive substances regime; expected
to come into force by the middle of next year.
He noted the concern K2 had caused with communities,
particularly those in Otago and Southland, and urged people
worried about the effects of any similar products to contact
police in the first instance.
Proactive policing team Sergeant Chris McLellan welcomed the
Government's move, as the product had been proven to be a
driver of crime in the South, including serious assaults,
burglaries and a large increase in domestic violence.
"When Kronic arrived, we took a proactive stance, and once
again with K2 we have done the same. These products, in our
opinion, are extremely dangerous and users need to be aware
of the consequences of using these products."
Intelligence gathered from the area had been provided to the
National Drug Intelligence Bureau, which in turn was supplied
to the Ministry of Health.
He urged retailers who sold synthetic cannabis products "to
make a clear decision over whether they should be selling
A former K2 user who has warned the public about the dangers
of the synthetic cannabis product was delighted to hear it
would be removed from sale next week.
"It is great the Government is getting rid of something that
is destroying people's lives," Emily Holkenbrink said
The Dunedin teenager had smoked K2 for more than a year, but
quit after an incident earlier this year in which she
battered her own face and ended up in an isolation ward at a
Dunedin-based National Poisons Centre toxicologist Dr Leo
Schep said the effects for users had gone from mild to
moderate a year ago, to serious and "potentially
life-threatening" for some recent users.
The latest banned substance was just one of dozens of
molecular analogues that were variations of a basic chemical
structure, "which people have gone through and cherry-picked
"These manufacturers are finding loopholes to make make money
at the expense of the health of New Zealanders."