Concern banned substances sold within K2 synthetic drug blend

Sythetic cannabis product K2. Image by Craig Baxter.
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 banned substances.

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 possibility."

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 these products".

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 yesterday.

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 psychiatric hospital.

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 from".

"These manufacturers are finding loopholes to make make money at the expense of the health of New Zealanders."

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