Bay league legend fights legal highs

By Doug Laing


Hawke's Bay rugby league great Kevin Tamati was involved in one of the most notorious dog-fights in New Zealand sport.

But 27 years after his 1985 sideline scrap with Australian prop Greg Dowling in Brisbane, the sports hero turned anti-drugs campaigner concedes he won't be making headlines if he has another dog-fight on his hands.

Stepping into a new debate over the use of animals for testing "legal-highs" which are mixing it with the New Zealand illicit drug world, Mr Tamati said if it comes to risking beloved black-and-white pooch Zoe "in order to save even one young person", he would agree.

"It's become pretty clear that simple prohibition doesn't work," he said, supporting Associate Minister of Health Peter Dunne's use of health consequences as a rationale for hitting at the use of recreational drugs.

Employed as a Hawke's Bay team leader for Ministry-funded Community Action Youth and Drugs (CAYAD), he said the organisation is also responding to an apparent "spike" in the use of the synthetic cannabis K2, and varied forms of higher-profile illicit drugs.

He said K2 had led to a rapid local rise in people turning up to doctors and addiction services.

"Users report manic and psychotic episodes, depression, paranoia and suicidal thoughts," he said.

Testing has revealed a psycho-active ingredient named EAM-2201, enabling the banning of the product.

"I don't really understand why people take drugs, but I accept that it's a social reality," said Mr Tamati, who in his playing days was a "non-drinker in a drinker's code".

Mr Tamati conceded he'd probably never be faced with turning Zoe into a guinea pig for testing recreational substances, but he supports the use of animals for testing.

CAYAD co-ordinator and manager Denis O'Reilly said it was concerning that K2 appeared to have been sold or provided to young teenagers in Hawke's Bay.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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