Scepticism as K2 withdrawn from sale

K2 will disappear from the shelves.
K2 will disappear from the shelves.
K2 will be voluntarily withdrawn from sale - at a cost of millions of dollars to the manufacturer of the synthetic cannabis product - but the announcement has been greeted with scepticism.

The Star Trust, which represents the majority of New Zealand's legal-high companies, yesterday confirmed the most popular synthetic cannabis product in the southern hemisphere would be gone from retail shelves within weeks.

Star Trust general manager Grant Hall said the owner of Lightyears Ahead Ltd - the company behind K2 - was concerned about the huge spike in use and potential harm if the product was used incorrectly.

''We know K2 has been causing huge problems in Dunedin, and we hope the local people in Dunedin are somewhat placated and feel a little more assured about safety.''

The ban was prompted by ''serious allegations in the media'' in recent months about K2.

The trust recently carried out a North Island retail survey, which revealed half of first-time K2 consumers were smoking the product out of curiosity - ''curiosity driven by the media'', he said.

''Let's be honest. This ban is worth millions of dollars to the owner of it. To sacrifice it now is a huge impact ... it is not just about the money.

''We need to show that there is some goodwill here, that the industry is serious about making this new [Psychoactive Substances] Bill work and is focused on safety.

''We don't want people abusing this product any more.''

It was hoped the voluntary withdrawal would result in ''a lot more credibility and a lot more respect from police, the politicians and the public''.

But police and politicians remained unconvinced.

Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne told the Otago Daily Times ''a dangerous product will not be in the hands of young people. Good. I am glad, but how about they remove other dangerous products and list ingredients on labels and take real responsibility for their products?

''There is a real feeling of `too little, too late' here, and the words 'cynical marketing ploy' also come to mind.''

The industry did not have a huge reservoir of credibility and integrity, and a Bill, which once passed into law will put the onus on manufacturers to prove the products were safe, would be in place by August, he said.

Senior Sergeant Chris McLellan, of Dunedin, said the immediate concern for police was whether the manufacturer was replacing K2 with a new brand.

Mr Hall declined to name the owner of Lightyears Ahead Ltd, other than to say he was a New Zealand citizen at present in Canada.

Company records show the director of Auckland-based Lightyears Ahead Ltd is Matthew Wielenga, of Birkdale.

Mr Hall confirmed the brand was the most popular in the southern hemisphere and that it would be retired.

''It will not be seen anywhere. That is it.''

He rejected a suggestion the withdrawal was just for a branding change for the product.

''My understanding is the brand owners were going to re-evaluate being in the market post August 1.''

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