Campaign to rid community of synthetic cannabis

By Mark Peters of the Gisborne Herald -
Gisborne district councillor Manu Caddie is inviting people to a public meeting at the council at 12 noon on Wednesday. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Gisborne district councillor Manu Caddie is inviting people to a public meeting at the council at 12 noon on Wednesday. Photo / Brett Phibbs

The fight against the sale of synthetic cannabis in Gisborne has stepped up with the support of community leaders.

Gisborne Girls' High School board chairman Tim Marshall says trustees would support community action to restrict or ban the sale of synthetic cannabis, particularly from outlets close to schools.

A campaign to raise awareness about the dangers of synthetic cannabis, and to boycott shops that sell products such as K2, was sparked by Gisborne mother Michelle Lexmond's boycott of shops which sell synthetic cannabis and a crackdown on the drug by police and health professionals in Wairoa.

Michelle Lexmond told The Herald she was urging people to "vote with their wallet" - to ask their local dairy owners if they sell K2 and if the response is yes, to tell them they will buy their bread and milk elsewhere.

Police, community leaders and health professionals in Wairoa are working towards seeing legal synthetic cannabis products banned from the district.

Gisborne Mayor Meng Foon says synthetic cannabis regulation has not worked and that the Government should ban all party pills.

"The Government should stop playing around with people's minds, body, and health. To the few local sellers, I ask you to help our community out by stopping selling of these mind-destroying products. Would you feed these pills to your kids?"

In his role as Tauawhi Men's Centre co-ordinator, Mr Marshall says comments he has heard from people who experienced negative effects from synthetic cannabis are concerning.

"The more the community can talk about it and take action on it, the better."

Tairawhiti District Health communications manager Kathy McVey says Emergency Department staff at Gisborne Hospital have seen about 10 patients suffering "nasty reactions" to the synthetic cannabis product known as K2 in the months since the drug came on to the local market.

"Staff say 10 is quite a lot when you consider the relatively small size of our community. The reactions are described as really quite severe - things like hallucinations, seizures and tremors."

In some cases, patients had been admitted to the hospital's intensive care unit.

The Herald spoke to two dairy owners who sold synthetic cannabis at shops in Kaiti and the Gisborne CBD.

They said they sold K2 and Illusion because there was demand, but insisted they always asked for identification to ascertain customers were over 18.

They were not concerned about a community-led plan to boycott shops that sold synthetic cannabis.

Gisborne district councillor Manu Caddie is inviting people to a public meeting at the council at 12 noon on Wednesday.

New Zealand Drug Detection Agency business development officer Tony Murrell says he will talk about the agency's knowledge of effects and signs of synthetic cannabis usage.

"I will also talk about the ability to gain and remain in employment and far reaching social and psychological effects."

A Ministry of Health specialist is expected to attend to talk about current and impending legislation.

A similar campaign is underway in Christchurch.

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