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WA Police enlist the help of scientists at the Chem Centre to analyse synthetic drug samples while new and tougher laws on synthetic cannabis are in the pipeline.

Dealing with drugs

A worried wife, who has asked to remain anonymous, is pleading for the State Government to move on legislation that outlaws the sale of synthetic cannabis, following her husband’s regular use which leaves him frothing at the mouth and in a zombie-like state.

The wife, who has tried to water down the doses her husband consumes by secretly mixing in Italian herbs, said she was outraged that two outlets in Midland stock the ‘legal highs’ under the counter, which are often packaged as incense or potpourri to disguise its intended use.

Last month police seized 1206 bags of synthetic cannabis, worth about $110,000, from Club X on Helena Street, following tip-offs from the public it was being advertised and sold there.

The wife told Echo News she was worried sick about her husband and the welfare of others because he often got behind the wheel when he was high.

She said the synthetic drug was very addictive which is why he still reached for it despite it giving him convulsions.

“He’s got an extreme reaction to it and he smokes excessively,” she said.

“He’s obviously not the only one going through it but it hurts me to see someone I love go through that.

“I just don’t understand how they are allowed to sell it?”

Synthetic drug samples are often analysed by scientists at the Chem Centre for WA Police to see if they contain illegal strains.

Chem Centre spokesperson Sarah Lau said often people had no idea what they were taking or what actually was in the synthetic cannabis.

She said some of the samples the centre analysed came in the same packaging and labelling but they had very different chemicals inside.

“So if you are expecting to have a cannabis like effect you can end up having an amphetamine like effect and that is a very different effect which can be difficult for a user because it’s very unexpected.”

Ms Lau said there was also a wide variation in the levels of the chemicals found in the samples, which could range from eight per cent to 80 per cent.

“Another real risk with these synthetic drugs is that we don’t have enough medical information about them,” she said.

“Many of these synthetic drugs are just chemical compounds that were created purely for research and were never intended for human use so we have really little information about what they actually do.”

The issue of synthetic cannabis in Western Australia has fuelled ongoing debate in Parliament over the past five years.

The issue was tackled on a federal level in May 2012, when all synthetic cannabinoid substances were included in Schedule 9 of the national standard for the Uniform Scheduling of Medicines and Poisons (SUSMP).

In an address to Parliament in June last year, Mental Health Minister Helen Morton said SUSMP identified eight groups of synthetic cannabinoids, and this catch-all phrase in legislation essentially made all synthetic cannabis in Western Australia illegal.

But she said the difficulty was that police had to prove the product contained synthetic cannabinoids, not necessarily a new stimulant or a hallucinogen.

In June, Mrs Morton said new legislation was on the drawing board to make it easier for the police to seize the substances and to get a conviction.

But Opposition police spokeswoman Michelle Roberts said for quite some years the Barnett Government has said it was drafting the legislation for introduction soon.

“I’m just not sure when soon is.”

Opposition leader Mark McGowan said the tragic death of two Queensland men from synthetic cannabis last month highlighted the urgent need for laws that made it illegal to buy or sell all synthetic cannabinoids.

He said WA Labor would introduce these laws within 100 days of winning government.

Mrs Morton said new legislation was now being drafted to specifically ban the sale, supply, manufacture, advertising and promotion of any psychoactive substance, or a substance claiming to have a psychoactive effect, unless it was already approved for other purposes such as medical.

“Essentially this removes any doubt about the legality or otherwise of a substance, and it also makes it significantly easier for police to successfully prosecute offenders.”

Mrs Morton said she expected this draft legislation to be considered by Parliament in the first half of 2015.

For more information contact the Drug Information Service on 9442 5000, or country toll-free 1800 198 024.


About Rashelle Predovnik

Rashelle has been the senior journalist at Echo News since June 2011. She was a finalist in the WA Media Awards in 2015 and 2013. In 2014 Rashelle took out the whole print category in the Deborah Kirwan Media Awards for a series of stories she wrote that has positively influenced community attitudes towards seniors. In 2013, Rashelle was a finalist in the Consumer Protection Media Awards. Before joining Echo News, Rashelle worked at WA Business News, Media Monitors, she was a freelance journalist and taught journalism units at Murdoch University.

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