At least one Dunedin dairy is allowing K2 users to buy the legal high product "on tick", despite synthetic cannabis continuing to be a driver of crime in the South, police say.
Samples of the product were being processed by ESR scientists, with results "expected soon", a Ministry of Health spokesman said yesterday.
They could not come too soon for Dunedin police, with the use of the product being linked to several incidents in the past week, proactive policing team Sergeant Chris McLellan said.
Incidents included an assault, a youth so disorientated he walked into a stranger's home, and five males found in a yard with the intention of stealing scrap metal to fund their K2 habit.
"We are eagerly awaiting the findings of K2. When we start getting youths and adults telling us it is dangerous from a users' perspective, that has to increase alarm bells."
Judge Dominic Flatley also warned of the dangers of K2 when sentencing a man in the Dunedin District Court yesterday for receiving stolen property.
Concerned the presentence report said the man had been using K2 daily since June, the judge said K2 was "highly dangerous".
In recent weeks he had seen far too many people who had been taking the substance.
Police were investigating "some locations offering tick-list type arrangements where [users] can get K2 without payment, and then pay once they receive some kind of income".
"The outlets can run what sort of business operations they want ...but when you get into that kind of arrangement you are really supporting people in getting the product by allowing them to tick it up."
There had been a slight increase in the number of retailers selling the product, with at least nine outlets targeted in a controlled purchase operation throughout the greater Dunedin area on Thursday night.
The operation was to check if synthetic cannabis retailers were abiding by the Smokefree Act.
Police reported no outlet sold the over-18 age restricted product to the underage youth.
Collated information was sent to National Police Headquarters and the Ministry of Health.
"People are underestimating the side effects of the product and the long-term mental health effects it can have on them. And the people we deal with are saying they are committing crime to buy K2."
Sgt McLellan said he continued to get calls from government agencies, synthetic cannabis users and their family members who raised concerns about the availability and effects of the product.
Anecdotally the product appeared to be more intense and difficult to manage than the now-banned product Kronic, he said.
Last year the Government introduced temporary class drug notices that have taken 28 substances and more than 50 synthetic cannabis products off the market.
Last month Associate Minister of Health Peter Dunne announced a range of changes set to become law next year, including a minimum purchase age of 18, restrictions on labelling/packaging and a ban on sales at dairies.