The synthetic cannabis product K2 - targeted in the Government's crackdown on legal highs - is making its presence felt in Hawke's Bay communities, with police and hospital staff seeing more people suffering from the effects of the substance.
Hawke's Bay police and the District Health Board are running a joint public education campaign on radio about K2, prompted by an increase in the number of cases both police and the hospital are dealing with.
Today, Hawke's Bay Today joins this campaign to inform its readers of the dangers of the drug and its effect on society.
The rise in cases comes as Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne announced a Temporary Class Drug Notice last week, banning two more substances found in tested samples of K2 synthetic cannabis.
Momentum has been building in Hawke's Bay against the substance, with a group of Napier parents calling themselves The Nanny Brigade protesting outside shops that stock the substance.
"We're not accepting it any more and we're not letting them poison our kids any more with their stuff just to make a quick buck," protest organiser Minnie Ratima has said.
While police have no jurisdiction under present laws to prevent a shop from selling K2, community groups are stepping in to make people aware.
Hawke's Bay emergency doctor Brad Sandleback says he is seeing at least one patient "every shift" suffering from the effects of synthetic cannabis products such as K2. Many were aggressive and as there was no immediate antidote it was a case of administering fluids and letting time do the rest.
As everyone was different, and as the synthetic ingredients could attack a range of brain functions, a toxicologist described using it as like playing Russian roulette.
Police are also seeing an increase in activity surrounding K2. In February, packs of the controversial legal high were stolen in a shop burglary in downtown Napier.
Police said the King of Swords in Hastings St was burgled and a "large quantity" of K2 stolen, along with three swords from among the shop's array of replica medieval weapons and armour.
At the time, Detective Sergeant Heath Jones said up to 50 packs of K2 that sold for about $20 each were stolen.
"That's what they were targeting," he said. "They went into a building full of ornamental swords and other items and went straight to what they were after.
"I've never come across it but I have come across people absolutely wasted on it. They don't know what they're doing."
That included adults and juveniles. Among them was a man arrested recently after being seen naked on one of Napier's busiest streets. He later told police he had smoked K2.