Why is synthetic cannabis killing Kiwis more than anyone else in the world?

"Frittering", that is, having a seizure while using synthetic cannabis, is normal in Rohan Bahram's world.

He's watched it happen to others, seen them come through unscathed and thought nothing of it.

Until just a few weeks ago, when it happened to him.

Rohan, who was celebrating his 23rd birthday, has lived to tell the tale – unlike 20 other Kiwis, this year, who have not.

Their deaths are puzzling.

Professor Michelle Glass, from the department of pharmacology at Auckland University says synthetic cannabinoids rarely cause clusters of deaths, the way they have in New Zealand – even though the drug is distributed around the world.

"We don't yet know what's causing these deaths here," says Professor Glass, who studies the effects of cannabinoids on the brain.

"It could be the drug itself, but most likely it's something being added to it, or it's an interaction with other drugs being taken by individuals."

Rohan who lives in Feilding with his family, says he hears on the street that the drug, imported from China, is being "cut" with other toxic substances, like petrol and insecticide to make it stronger.

Asked why anyone would knowingly use a substance that could include those ingredients, he answers: "because they're addicted".

In the first half of this year Police say they seized six kilogrammes of synthetic cannabinoid powder at the border – enough to manufacture around 40 thousand three gram bags. That doesn't seem to have stopped supply.

St John Ambulance say they continue to respond to around 60 emergency call-outs around the country every week, sometimes with tragic outcomes.


- By Sunday reporter Janet McIntyre


'Dying for a high' - SUNDAY TVNZ 1 tonight at 7.30 PM or later on OnDemand.

Sunday reporter Janet McIntyre talks to Rohan Bahram who was rushed to hospital after using synthetic cannabis. Source: Sunday


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Messages released to 1 NEWS show Massey’s Vice Chancellor had problem with Don Brash speaking long before he was barred from campus talk

Newly released documents show Massey University's Vice Chancellor had a problem with Don Brash speaking long before he was publicly barred from speaking on campus.

A trail of transcripts of voicemail messages and emails to and from the Vice Chancellor's office have been released to 1 NEWS, showing Jan Thomas citing "trails of evidence".

Her decision to block the former National and Act leader from speaking drew widespread criticism.

That decision was made public on August 7, and spoke of a great security risk to students, staff and the public. These newly released documents show the lead-up to that decision.

Emails show Professor Thomas weeks beforehand on July 13 saying, "I am still fretting about the student club invitation to Don Brash… I really want to find a way to indicate that Brash is not welcome on campus unless he agrees to abide by our values and the laws against hate speech".

Professor Thomas continued: "My strong preference is that we stop it occurring."

The next day, Professor Thomas wrote in another email: "But we still have a couple of trails of evidence, then we need to speak to [the] politics club, and then refuse entry to campus if students don’t oblige – and be proactive at that point before Brash can get to the media."

Before both those emails, she wrote in another on July 10 that she "wanted to know what our options re not allowing politics club to hold event on campus… Will hit the fan in the media if we go this way".

Newly released documents show Massey University’s Vice Chancellor had a problem with Don Brash speaking long before he was publicly barred from speaking on campus. Source: 1 NEWS

When Jan Thomas pulled the plug on Dr Brash's appearance, she said it came after security concerns surrounding a threat involving a gun.

But Police told 1 NEWS at the time they were not contacted before the decision to cancel was made.

The new documents confirm this, with Massey University there were no written communications sent or received from the police. In an email to staff, Jan Thomas said she arranged a meeting with local police to discuss security but "before that meeting could take place... I made the decision to cancel the booking of the event on our campus".

Included in the documents is a Facebook user comment about Don Brash's event saying "take a gun".

Mr Brash was due to speak at the university, but had his speech cancelled by Jan Thomas. Source: 1 NEWS

BARRAGE OF CRITICISM

Massey University released several hundred pages of emails to 1 NEWS, showing an onslaught of criticism aimed at the Vice-Chancellor. Some called for her resignation.

Messages left on voicemail spoke of disappointment. "I'm absolutely horrified at the decision… I am very very concerned at the lack of free speech," one caller said.

"My son is due to graduate from college very soon, and we're looking at universities and Massey was one of them, but a little concerned about what I’ve heard about some free speech restrictions on campus," another voice message said.

Emails from former students were also critical.

"As an alumni of Massey University I wish to express my displeasure at your decision to ban former leader of the National Party Don Brash from speaking at Massey University," one wrote.

The University remains at odds with police over claims of security concerns and threats of violence. Source: 1 NEWS

A "proud Massey chemistry alumni" said they were very disappointed to learn that their friend Don Brash "had been deplatformed for his talk".

"I am ashamed to have to tell my friends, associates and colleagues that I am a Massey University graduate from this day forward,"another person wrote.

Another message said they had instructed their Trust not to fund any of their children or grandchildren to attend any programme or course at Massey University. "There are always consequences when you attack the freedoms our family spent so much of our lives to protect," they wrote.

"Please do the honorable thing and resign as Vice Chancellor” another former student wrote. “Massey has lost a great deal of credibility as a learning institution and I’m embarrassed to be associated with my former university."

A short statement drafted for the university's contact centre to reply to people with said the decision wasn't taken lightly, and that Professor Thomas made the decision taking the gun threat into account.

It further added that "recent events… suggest the current situation is potentially volatile."

A trail of transcripts of voicemail messages and emails to and from the Vice Chancellor's office have been released to 1 NEWS, showing Jan Thomas citing "trails of evidence". Source: 1 NEWS


Kiwi chocolatier Whittaker's takes leap into ice cream bars

Kiwi chocolate company Whittaker's is expanding from the lollies aisle, with an eye on dominating the freezer sections of supermarkets and dairies as well.

Starting Monday, Tip Top will offer three new flavours of ice cream bars featuring the brand: chocolate and pretzel, coffee and cacao and vanilla and cashew praline.

"It's the moment you've been waiting for...two iconic Kiwi brands coming together to combine the best of both worlds," Tip Top announced on its Facebook page this morning.

Unlike previous collaborations, the flavours are a permanent addition to the Tip Top range, a Whittaker's official told the New Zealand Herald.

"We've always had a dream to be able to create a delicious ice cream with somebody," said Whittaker's marketing manager Jasmine Currie.

Auckland fans of the brands will have an opportunity to get an early taste of the ice creams on Saturday, with a pop-up store opening at midday in Newmarket.

kiwi companies Whittaker's and Tip Top have collaborated for three new ice cream bars. Source: Tip Top

TODAY'S
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Police carrying out search warrants targeting organised crime, drugs in Bay of Plenty

Police are executing a number of search warrants in the eastern Bay of Plenty today.

The warrants come as part of an investigation into organised crime and the distribution of illicit drugs within the community.

More to come.

Police (file picture).
Police generic Source: 1 NEWS


Watch: 'Make it lit fam' - Andrew Little releases video appealing for 2019 New Plymouth youth MP

MP Andrew Little has released a video appealing for a 2019 New Plymouth youth MP.

In the video, Mr Little can be seen making digs at his political rivals - David Seymour, Gareth Morgan, Bill English and John Key - while attempting to appeal to the modern teenager.

"I'm Andrew Little. You may know me for such things as my cat (soz Gareth), beard polls, party hats and Dancing With The Stars. Just kidding. That's Not Safe for Twerk," the Justice Minister says.

"But if you're going to have a backing track, make sure it's pretty legal. So make it lit fam."

The MP can be seen making digs at his political rivals as he tries to appeal to the modern teenager. Source: Breakfast