Rise of Toxic Synthetic Cannabis Alarms Australian Experts After Queensland Deaths

By on
A production assistant inspects a Cannabis plant in a state-owned agricultural farm in Rovigo, about 60 km (40 miles) from Venice, September 22, 2014.
A production assistant inspects a Cannabis plant in a state-owned agricultural farm in Rovigo, about 60 km (40 miles) from Venice, September 22, 2014. Reuters/Alessandro Bianchi

The death of two men from the use of synthetic cannabis or marijuana has raised concerns on a growing global problem affecting Australia. Medical experts agree the traditional and outdated methods to address drug supplies in the country have prompted the rise of synthetic and possibly dangerous drugs.

Two men died in central Queensland while others fell ill after a police discovered a suspected batch of toxic synthetic cannabis. Mackay health officials have warned of an increase in the number of patients complaining about the negative effects of the drug. According to ABC, police are investigating the source of the synthetic cannabis and the poisonous substance. A sex shop was raided in Mackay and removed boxes as part of the investigation.

Dr David Farlow, head of the Mackay Hospital and Health Service, said the synthetic drugs affect a person's physical and mental health as well as the community. Under Australia's current legislation, the purchase of synthetic cannabis is illegal. If caught, a person can be charged with illegal possession, supply or trafficking.

Acting Inspector Detective Sam Bliss remarked the chemical compounds found in the synthetic cannabis can be dangerous since they are not natural alternative to real drugs. Dr David Caldicott, a clinical lecturer at the Senior Australian National University, said the synthetic cannabinoids have industrially made chemicals sprayed onto plant material that gives it the "natural" impression. He said drug users have embraced the trend of using synthetic drugs they believe can produce a natural high like real marijuana.

Caldicott said synthetic drugs contain materials not designed for human consumption. He urged the government to develop better responses to the growing problem as the number of deaths from synthetic drugs may increase in the generation of young Australians.

Dr Alex Wodak, an addiction specialist, said people were attracted to synthetic drugs because they are easier to acquire and think they are safe to use, The Guardian reported. He suggested undermining the black market by developing a regulated approach including taxation. Wodak said regulating synthetic cannabis would make it illegal for the drug to be sold to people under a certain age and pregnant women. 

To report problems or leave feedback for this article, contact: r.su@ibtimes.com.au.