Pubdate: Tue, 02 Aug 2011
Source: Otago Daily Times (New Zealand)
Copyright: 2011 Allied Press Limited
Author: Hamish McNeilly


The Government has acted to stub out the sale and supply of synthetic
cannabis, with products such as Kronic to be removed from shops within

An outspoken supplier has said the move would force the products on to
the black market and "empower organised crime".

Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne yesterday confirmed Cabinet had
approved amendments to the Misuse of Drugs Amendment Bill, which by
next week would ban the 43 synthetic cannabis products at present on
the market.

Synthetic cannabis products would effectively be off the market for 12
months while the Government worked through recommendations from the
Law Commission to shift the onus of proving product safety back on to
the industry.

"The bottom line is that these products are generally untested and we
do not know the long-term effects of their use, and we are not about
to just let it all happen and pick up damaged young people at the
end," Mr Dunne said.

Under this interim measure, anyone importing, exporting, supplying, or
selling the product would attract the same penalty as a class C drug,
however the possession or use of the drug would not be a criminal offence.

There had been criticism the New Zealand response was not as fast as
overseas responses, Mr Dunne said, and the new amendments would allow
temporary class drug notices to be issued for new products.

An Australian ban on synthetic cannabis last month, is already being
tested by the New Zealand makers of Kronic, who introduced a new "100%
legal" product.

Cannabinoid importer Matt Bowden, of Auckland-based Stargate
Operations, said the industry had been requesting the Government to
regulate the products but had been told "it was not a priority".

"Now it is election time, it is a priority."

Mr Bowden said by effectively shutting down a "legitimate industry,
you empower a black market of supply, where you have no quality
control at all, and you empower organised crime".

The move would result in consumers stockpiling the product, but had
"left me in a difficult position".

Although he welcomed pre-clinical testing, he doubted the changes
would completely wipe out the legal high industry.

Asked if he had new products that could satisfy the amendments, Mr
Bowden confirmed he had products in the "safety testing phase", but "I
can't really comment on that".

"We will find safe dosages in safe-dosage formats for a number of
non-alcoholic drugs."

Welcoming the announcement was National Poisons Centre toxicologist
Leo Schep, who said while it would create a black market, it did not
give suppliers "legitimacy to sell it".

Despite the high cost involved in drug testing - "who knows what [the
legal high industry] are going to cook up".

Proactive policing team Sergeant Chris McLellan, of Dunedin, said it
was pleasing the Government had supporting community stakeholders who
had expressed concern over the product.

Dunedin Police, who had been approached by other agencies in New
Zealand and overseas over their approach to synthetic cannabis, had
proven it acted as a "driver of crime".

Those crimes included aggravated robbery, serious violence, thefts,
dishonesty related offending, and family violence incidents, he said.
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MAP posted-by: Richard R Smith Jr.