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August 14, 2017 | by  | in News |
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People Dying from Synthetic Cannabis

Synthetic cannabis, which was legal in New Zealand until May 2014, is believed to have contributed to the deaths of ten New Zealanders last month.

Acting Detective Inspector Peter Florence told Stuff on July 28 that synthetic cannabis has always been prevalent, but there had been a sudden unexplained spike in recent months.

He said the police were doing everything they could to get synthetic cannabis off the streets, and urged the public to assist by reporting those suspected to be dealing the substance.

Ambulance service provider St John has also seen an increase in patients affected by the drug. On July 20, ambulances responded to 23 synthetic cannabis incidents — an all time high.

“Patients under the influence of this drug are exhibiting grossly disturbed behaviour, often suffering seizures and cardiac arrest,” St John Medical Director Tony Smith, told Stuff.

The Ministry of Health rated synthetic cannabis as the fourth most harmful drug in New Zealand in 2016. It is generally unknown what chemicals synthetic cannabis contains, as it is innocuous plant material with chemicals sprayed onto it.

Chief Coroner Judge Deborah Marshall released a statement on August 1 saying agencies are working hard to identify the drug’s active chemicals.

Avondale Police Inspector Marcia Murray said that “the chemicals used [in manufacturing the drug] are readily accessible to the public.”

Despite the recent deaths, Murray believes there can be a misconception that synthetic cannabis is a “safe” drug because it was once legal.

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