The difficult task faced by lawmakers in regulating the synthetic cannabis industry was highlighted again this week by the ban on a substance used in a brand of fake cannabis.
Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne issued a Temporary Class Drug Notice on EAM-2201, a substance found in samples of the popular synthetic cannabis product K2.
The ban will come into effect on December 6.
K2 has been one of the most popular synthetic cannabis products in the United States and began hitting New Zealand shelves in May this year.
Some of the side effects associated with the drug soon alarmed health professionals.
In the Bay, health professionals spoke out about young people experiencing psychotic episodes after using it.
This corresponded with a spike in calls from people suffering the effects of synthetic cannabis use, mostly involving K2.
The National Poisons Centre dealt with 13 synthetic cannabis-related calls, the third highest on record.
Recorded effects included vomiting, agitation, drowsiness, psychosis, hallucinations, headaches, seizures and tremors.
Clearly, given the harmful side effects associated with this legal high, something had to be done on the matter.
In the wake of the announcement that the substance was to be banned, a Western Bay retailer pointed out suppliers had already stopped using the substance.
It is another illustration of how nimble the synthetic cannabis industry can be. They can change the substances they put in these products to skirt around legislation before it comes into force.
That said, the announcement of the ban has already been effective because it no doubt played a part in the manufacturers' decision to remove it from their product.
Thankfully, there is little chance those in the industry will be able to skirt around a new regime for party pills and fake cannabis next year, which will require makers to prove their products are safe before they can be put on the market.
The Ministry has estimated that the array of testing of a product to fulfil the onus of safety could cost the manufacturer about $1 million to $2 million, and each clinical trial could take up to two years. Further, there will be advertising and sales restrictions, probably similar to those on alcohol and tobacco.
The change is a necessary step to ensure that those behind these products put customers' safety before profits.