Retailers down on highs

Central Leader - - NEWS - By EMMA WHIT­TAKER

SYN­THETIC cannabis is find­ing it harder to make it on to shop shelves as more store own­ers refuse to sell it.

This month a tem­po­rary ban pro­hibit­ing two sub­stances found in the brand K2 came into force.

Any­one caught sell­ing it can now be crim­i­nally pros­e­cuted for pos­ses­sion and dis­tri­bu­tion of a class C drug.

Sim­i­lar prod­ucts that do not con­tain the sub­stances can still be sold.

This week Auck­land po­lice have been vis­it­ing retailers across the city to check they are abid­ing by the ban and ed­u­cat­ing them about the dangers of other prod­ucts they are still within their rights to sup­ply.

Only nine of 47 stores vis­ited so far by the Mt Roskill Com­mu­nity Polic­ing team were sell­ing syn­thetic cannabis, of­ten called le­gal highs, and none were of­fer­ing the banned sub­stances.

‘‘It’s a very pos­i­tive re­sult for ev­ery­one. It shows the com­mu­nity don’t want it,’’ Sergeant James Cassin says.

‘‘We thought more would be sell­ing it be­cause it is still a big money-maker for them.’’

Shops that are not stock­ing syn­thetic cannabis are given a poster to dis­play.

Shalini Prasad is one dairy owner who is choos­ing to put safety above profit.

She sold Kronic for only a few months when it first came on the mar­ket. It was banned in 2011. ‘‘My cus­tomers kept telling me they didn’t want me to sell it. One lady said ‘ what if your son smoked it and he killed him­self’,’’ she says.

Her store sold Kronic for $20 a packet. ‘‘It wasn’t a big seller. ‘‘We prob­a­bly only sold five to six pack­ets a week,’’ she says.

The K2 ban came into ef­fect at midnight on May 9.

‘‘We got a whole lot of phone calls as late as 11pm the night be­fore ask­ing if we sold it or if we knew any­one who does,’’ she says.

Mrs Prasad says most of those who bought Kronic from her shop were aged be­tween 18 and 25.

Other dairies vis­ited by the Cen­tral Leader had never sold syn­thetic cannabis.

It has been widely avail­able in New Zealand since the early 2000s.

Po­lice are find­ing that as well as hav­ing po­ten­tially se­ri­ous health ef­fects, the drugs are in­creas­ingly linked to crime.

Deputy Com­mis­sioner Mike Bush says: ‘‘This is be­ing driven by peo­ple ei­ther com­mit­ting crime to get their hands on th­ese drugs, or com­mit­ting crimes while on them.’’

In one wor­ry­ing case two boys aged 9 and 10 were taken to hos­pi­tal af­ter it ap­peared they were given K2 by older chil­dren.

The two were found vom­it­ing and un­re­spon­sive.

Syn­thetic cannabis is made by spraying a chem­i­cal that mim­ics the ef­fects of cannabis on dried plant ma­te­rial.

About 50 prod­ucts are now banned.

The Psy­choac­tive Sub­stances Bill and will reg­u­late their sale comes into ef­fect in Au­gust.

Le­gal highs: Stores re­fus­ing to sell syn­thetic cannabis are dis­play­ing this poster.

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