A criminal lawyer has written to the Health Minister asking him to ban synthetic cannabis products immediately, saying they are just as dangerous as methamphetamine.
Whangarei lawyer Dave Sayes, who has been working in Northland's courts for more than 20 years, is concerned about the effects of synthetic cannabis products such as K2 due to the "psychosis, paranoia, seizures and gratuitous violence in seemingly non-violent people" he claims they cause.
"I've had a number of people and clients approach me over the last three months about K2, and other synthetics, and the erratic behaviour they are causing to people who use them," Mr Sayes said.
"It's turning people violent. It's turning people ugly. It's got the same effects that methamphetamine has.
"But it's readily and easily available and it's legal. It should be banned straight away."
Mr Sayes has written to Health Minister Tony Ryall asking him to immediately ban such products and the letter has been passed on to Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne, who is leading the charge against synthetic cannabis and party pills.
Mr Dunne's Psychoactive Substances Bill has been tabled in Parliament and is expected to pass by August 1. The bill will restrict the importation, manufacture, and supply of psychoactive substances and only allow the sale of those psychoactive substances that can meet safety and manufacturing requirements.
But Mr Sayes said that is too far away and the products were causing real harm in Northland now.
"It's out there and it's a real problem. It's got the same buzz as methamphetamine and is causing bizarre behaviour in people, including provoking extreme acts of gratuitous violence in people who have not been violent before," he said.
His pleas follows community campaigns in various parts of the country against the sale of synthetic cannabis products and warnings by doctors about extreme reactions in patients presenting at emergency departments after taking the substances.
Edward Jones sells a range of legal synthetic cannabis products from his Vine St, Whangarei store The Brew Store and said it was a simple matter of supply and demand.
"It's legal at the moment and we are an R18 shop and ask for ID from most people," Mr Jones said.
He said alcohol and tobacco were also legal and the damage those two drugs caused was well documented, but he welcomed the Psychoactive Substances Bill.
"It will get rid of the people that don't have any controls [on sale and content] in place."
He said most people buying synthetic cannabis were in their 30s or 40s and many of them professionals.
People can smoke it and not have to worry much about drug testing at their employment, Mr Jones said.
"It's an alternative to cannabis, which is why there's a market," he said.
Meanwhile, Northland police Senior Constable James McCullough said police had real concerns about retailers who choose to stock synthetic cannabinoid products.
"We are encouraging all Northland retailers not to stock synthetic cannabinoid products for their own health and the health of our community."
For more articles from this region, go to Northern Advocate