Defiant sellers sidestep K2 ban

A ban on former legal high K2 will be imposed today but some Invercargill store owners say they will continue selling it.

Although authorities are enforcing the ban, Invercargill store owners selling the drug said yesterday that they would continue selling it because the supplier had used a new formula which did not contain the banned substance.

During testing, a banned substance EAM-2201 was found in two K2 products seized by police from a retail outlet.

A fortnight ago Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne announced a Temporary Class Drug Notice on the synthetic cannabis product, saying the substance posed a risk comparable to other already banned synthetic cannabis.

The notice stated that from today, it would be illegal to import, manufacture, sell or supply the product.

A permanent psychoactive substances regime will be put in place during the middle of next year.

This would mean manufacturers and distributors would have to prove products were safe before selling them.

Impuls'd store owner Warren Skillsaid he believed the EAM-2201 substance was banned, but not the product.

K2 would remain on sale in his south Invercargill store because the banned substance had not been used to make K2 for about one month, he said.

Until the regulations changed next year the temporary ban was just a Band-aid and many more products like K2 would flood the market, he said.

"There are more products than K2, there are about 40 kinds I could sell."

Pillz & Thrillz manager Royce Trounson said the supplier had told the store owner the banned chemical had not been used to make K2 for months.

"It's not a product ban, it's a substance ban."

The Invercargill Dee St store would continue to sell products under the brand of K2 in the same packaging, he said.

Thrifty Foods worker Yew Lan said the Invercargill dairy in Stapleton St stopped selling K2 10 days ago when it sold out of stock, and his boss did not want to sell it any more.

"My boss says it causes too many problems," Mr Lan said.

A representative from Auckland-based K2 supplier Lightyears Ahead said the company had not used banned substance EAM-2201 to make K2 for more than a month.

The supplier to Invercargill stores said he was selling a new K2 formula without the ingredient, but refused to say why he stopped using it before the official ban was announced.

He said he did not want his three "approved" retailers in Invercargill to be "homed in on" by police because as far as he was concerned they were not selling an illegal drug.

However, as far as authorities in the region are concerned, the drug, popular with southern schoolchildren and connected to vomiting, anxiety, psychosis and elevated heart rate, is still illegal and the law will be enforced.

A Ministry of Health spokesperson said retailers should weigh the veracity of what they are being told by distributors against the penalties they are exposing themselves to if they are found in breach of a temporary class drug notice.

The ministry also considers that retailers are being irresponsible selling something potentially harmful with little or no product information and no health warnings, he said.

For the purposes of supply, the substance is treated as equivalent to a Class C drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act, he said.

Public Health South team leader Anne McSoriley said it would be checking with retailers to ensure they were complying with the new regulations."

Sergeant Brock Davis, of Invercargill, said police would be enforcing the ban.

The temporary notice would stay in force for 12 months.

The Southland Times