Man who allegedly jumped from Darwin high-rise had smoked synthetic cannabis, police say – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

Man who allegedly jumped from Darwin high-rise had smoked synthetic cannabis, police say

Updated April 18, 2019 20:23:25

Detective Superintendent Mark Stringer has seen more hospitalisations linked to synthetic cannabis use in Darwin during the past few weeks than he has in years and is urging residents to “chuck it out”.

Key points:

  • Synthetic cannabis is made from chemicals and solvents sprayed onto herbs, and is designed to mimic the effects of cannabis
  • NT Police are urging residents not to use the drug, saying it has been linked to numerous fatalities
  • Synthetic cannabis is illegal in the Territory but new strains are reportedly frequently developed to take advantage of regulatory loopholes

On March 30, a 19-year-old was critically injured following an alleged jump from a Darwin city high-rise shortly after smoking the drug.

On April 11, another female was hospitalised after also allegedly smoking it, and NT Police are currently investigating a third possible incident.

Detective Superintendent Stringer said police had also raided a Darwin shop recently and seized “a fair quantity of it”.

Synthetic cannabis — made out of chemicals sprayed onto herbs — has been linked to numerous fatalities in the last few years, but Detective Superintendent Stringer said it was the first time in a while the issue had come to the attention of Darwin law enforcement.

“[It’s the] first time I can sort of remember it coming up in the last two years in relation to hospitalisations,” he said.

‘A lot of it comes from New Zealand’

Although synthetic cannabis is illegal, Detective Superintendent Stringer said shop owners often packaged it as incense and labelled it as “not for human consumption” in a bid to circumvent the laws.

According to the Australian Drug and Alcohol Foundation, it can also be marketed as aphrodisiac tea and potpourri.

Another loophole Detective Superintendent Stringer said manufacturers exploited was to slightly alter the strains of synthetic cannabis on the market.

“The people that are making it can tweak the DNA of it very easily, so by the time that a particular strain is outlawed, they’ve stopped making it and they’ve rolled out a new batch,” he said.

“That’s the problem that we have with the legislation, not just here in the Territory but on a national level.”

He said a national collective of law enforcement officers, including border force and federal police, were looking into the regulatory system around synthetic cannabis.

He hoped this would eventually lead to new legislation that would also clamp down on importation, as it could be easily bought over the internet.

“All the intelligence indicates that it’s not being produced here in Australia,” he said.

“A lot of it comes from New Zealand and some comes from Europe as well.”

‘Chuck it out’

Synthetic cannabis has reportedly been sold online since 2004 and was originally designed to mimic the effects of cannabis.

But according to the Australian Drug and Alcohol Foundation’s website, some of the new substances do not mimic cannabis and produce “additional negative effects”.

“The chemicals usually vary from batch to batch as manufacturers try to stay ahead of the law, so different packets can produce different effects even if the name and branding on the package looks the same,” it said.

Among the negative side effects it lists are racing thoughts, anxiety, paranoia, psychosis, aggression, chest pain, vomiting, acute kidney injury, seizure, stroke and death.

In 2016, the ABC reported the death of a Hunter Valley teenager was believed to be linked to a synthetic form of cannabis.

In 2015, synthetic cannabis was linked to the deaths of three young people in Victoria and the deaths of two men in Mackay.

Following the recent hospitalisations, Detective Superintendent Stringer said he held real concerns for anyone in possession of synthetic cannabis.

He urged people to dispose of it by flushing it down the toilet, so it couldn’t fall into the hands of others who might consume it.

“Anyone using any form of drug is putting themselves at risk, but it’s really concerning when we start seeing a pattern possibly involving the same drug,” Detective Superintendent Stringer said.

“We urge anyone in possession of it — chuck it out, it’s not worth it.”

Topics: drug-offences, crime, law-crime-and-justice, drug-use, health, drug-education, drugs-and-substance-abuse, community-and-society, darwin-0800, nt

First posted April 18, 2019 17:24:38

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