Synthetic cannabis products, marketed as "intense incense", on display at Off Ya Tree in Northland Shopping Centre
SYNTHETIC cannabis is being sold over the counter in Darebin despite deaths linked to the mock pot.
While police work to lessen the impact of drugs in Melbourne’s north, the Off Ya Tree store in Northland Shopping Centre has the imitation dope ready for sale in their front counter.
Leader last month visited the Preston store where the product, labelled as “intense incense”, was on display.
Marketed under names such as “intense incense” and often labelled “not for human consumption”, the open sale of synthetic cannabis was “very concerning” a pharmacology expert told Preston Leader.
La Trobe University senior lecturer of pharmacology Dr Elly Djouma said synthetic cannabis was more dangerous than the natural drug it mimicked.
“Natural cannabis is derived from plants and synthetic cannabinoids are basically made in a laboratory to mimic the natural version,” Dr Djouma said.
“The problem is, because it’s made in a laboratory from batch to batch, it’s going to be different in quality and purity and any other chemicals that are added to it, so the effects are much more unpredictable.”
Dr Djouma said the often dangerous symptoms of psychosis were “more profound” in synthetic cannabis compared to the natural plant.
A spokeswoman for Thendro, the parent company that operates Off Ya Tree, last week declined to give her name or make any comment on the sale of synthetic cannabis.
The marketing of synthetic cannabis, often in colourful packaging with names such as “pineapple paradise” or “Hawaiian heaven”, also made it more attractive to young people, Dr Djouma said.
Northland spokeswoman Mia Greves said the centre did not endorse the sale of synthetic cannabis, but said its removal from shelves was “a matter for Victoria Police and the Victorian Government”.
Synthetic cannabis was last year linked to the deaths of three young people, in the space of just four months, by the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine’s 2015 annual report.
“We believe it is highly significant that these deaths occurred in young people at home while using this drug with no other competing cause of death being identified at autopsy,” the report stated.
Leader last year purchased synthetic cannabis from several chain adult stores in Melbourne’s bayside suburbs to be independently tested by Safe Work Laboratories.
Two products were found to contain highly toxic and dangerous ingredients.
The samples were handed to police, who said they were struggling with enforcement because targeting dealers relied on forensic testing and because manufacturers constantly changed ingredients in a bid to stay a step ahead of the law. It is not currently illegal to sell synthetic cannabis.
Reactions to synthetic cannabis were the third-highest cause of calls to Austin Health’s Victorian Poisons Information Centre for “street drugs” last year, just behind amphetamines and ecstasy.
The centre’s annual report also revealed the number of calls made to the service for help with a synthetic cannabis reaction more than doubled from the previous year.
Off Ya Tree did not respond to Leader’s request for comment.