Synthetic cannabis product K2.
The saying "there's no smoke without fire" increasingly
appears to be the case in relation to the synthetic cannabis
product K2. In the past 10 days, several people who have used
the product (which mimics the effects of tetrahydrocannabinol,
or THC, the psychoactive constituent of the cannabis plant)
have voiced concerns over it following frightening experiences.
On Monday, four University of Otago flatmates said they would
never use K2 again after 10 people playing games at their
flat tried it for the first time. After reportedly only one
puff of the product, several of the group vomited, some
reported hallucinations, police were called and two visiting
men were hospitalised temporarily after becoming aggressive
"I felt like I was in another world. I thought I was going to
be like that forever. It shouldn't be legal," one of the
The incident came only a week after an 18-year old female,
who had been using K2 for a year, contacted this newspaper to
warn about its dangers following a manic episode in which she
battered her own face and was also hospitalised.
"I was possessed by a demon ... I started screaming so loudly
that I did not even recognise my own voice ... this is is
horrendous stuff," the teenager said.
Police said they were witnessing an increase in incidents
involving the product. Users were behaving erratically,
aggressively and out of character and police warned people
could not only face serious charges for any crimes committed
while under its influence, but were potentially "putting
their lives at risk" by smoking K2.
Last month, Southern police visited K2 retailers and asked
them to remove it from their shelves, but some business
owners said they would continue to sell K2 until it was
The first temporary bans on synthetic cannabis substances,
issued a year ago, were rolled over in August for 12 months.
The Government had put 28 substances under temporary class
drug notices, removing more than 50 synthetic cannabis
products from the market, and was reviewing similar products
as they were identified - including K2 - before a signalled
Details of the change came yesterday, and once implemented
next year will no doubt be greeted with relief by police,
health workers, worried parents and teachers and some K2
users themselves, given the horror stories.
In announcing details of the permanent psychoactive
substances regime, Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne said
he made "no apologies for setting the bar high on public
safety". The regime would be "based on reversing the onus of
proof so those who profit from these products will have to
prove they are as safe as is possible for psychoactive
substances" and would mean the Government would "no longer
play the cat-and-mouse game of constantly chasing down
substances after they are on the market".
Under the new rules, legal high manufacturers will face
estimated $180,000 application fees plus $1 million to $2
million in testing costs for each product. There will be a
minimum purchase age of 18 for products, point-of-sale
advertising only, labelling and packaging requirements, and
dairies will be barred from selling the products. Penalties
will include up to eight years in prison for people found to
be manufacturing or selling banned substances, and a $300
fine for personal possession of an unapproved product.
Of course, there will be those who argue outlawing the
products will not necessarily stop their manufacture or use
After all, history shows no amount of legislation will stop
people - particularly youth - from experimenting with
mind-altering substances, and where there is money to made,
there will always be a market for manufacturers and
And until the legislation comes into force, K2 remains
legally available. The long-term effects of synthetic
cannabis products - which are often far more potent than
cannabis - are unknown. So, in the vacuum ahead of the law
change, along with personal choice comes moral
Retailers should examine their consciences over the issue -
particularly as products such as K2 are obviously being used
by young people and clearly have unpredictable and
potentially dangerous and harmful results, even in small