New Zealand has a long and sordid past dealing with synthetics cannabis. After being outlawed and a decade of prohibition, fake cannabinoids are popping up again in New Zealand. These drugs are deadly, cheap, and could be problematic in the future.

Legal “Highs”

A decade ago legal high’s where prevalent in smoke shops and dairy’s across New Zealand. In 2013, New Zealand passed the Psychoactive Substances Act, which rather than legalising cannabis, it allowed certain chemical alternatives to be legally consumed. Legislature wasn’t against the feeling of getting “high” but was against doing it naturally with cannabis. The goal was to “…protect the health of, and minimise harm to, individuals who use psychoactive substances”, however many of the synthetic chemicals became hard to regulate. The whole market became a regulatory cat and mouse game. As regulators would outlaw new substances, producers would change the chemical composition by one hydrogen molecule and be selling again. This tricky legal situation was chronicled by Vice in 2016 in Hamiltons Pharmacopeia.

What is Synthetic Cannabis?

Synthetic Cannabis has many names but is usually referred to as ‘spice’ or ‘zombie’. Synthetic cannabis is responsible for 70 deaths between 2017 and 2019, making it one of the worst overdose waves tied to a legalised substance. These types of drugs are manufactured in labs, usually in China or South Asia, and are built to wreak havoc on a user’s endocannabinoid system. Made to mimic THC by binding to cannabis receptors through the body, they can have many adverse and unknown effects.

“This is just a synthetic compound – it has nothing to do with THC or cannabis. I think that’s really important to get across because people are lulled into this false sense that this is just cannabis.”

Dr.Wilkins to Newshub

The Future in New Zealand

These synthetic cannabinoids are aimed directly at Cannabis users. They’re cheaper to get than marijuana because they’re made in a lab and imported rather than grown. It’s clear from the body count that synthetics are more deadly than Cannabis (which has a body count of 0 overdoses ever). By far, the best way to rid this country of dangerous substances like Spice is to legalize natural, safe cannabis so consumers don’t have to move to an alternative.

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