Retailers down on highs
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.