Fears rising over hazards of marijuana substitutes

Fears rising over hazards of marijuana substitutes

Products sold as marijuana substitutes and reviewed by teenage customers as giving a 25-minute-long ''eight out of 10'' high continue to be sold in Canberra stores.

A spokesman for the Million Dollar Kiosk at Belconnen's Westfield Shopping Centre confirmed on Thursday he was selling a substance known as Vortex Inferno and that it could be used as a marijuana substitute.

The Broke Stoners during their glowing review of the cannabis substitute.

The Broke Stoners during their glowing review of the cannabis substitute.Credit:YouTube

''I am aware of that,'' he said. ''As far as I am aware it is legal in the ACT. I've had police in here while I've been selling it and they haven't said anything.''

An employee of Civic's Off Ya Tree franchise in Petrie Plaza said on Thursday the store and tattoo parlour was selling another product called Jungle Fever.

Fever pitch ... A packet of Jungle Fever.

Fever pitch ... A packet of Jungle Fever.

''We do sell Jungle Fever,'' she said. ''We sell it is a herbal incense. It is labelled 'intense incense' and is a pretty popular product. We are selling it is an incense, not as a drug substitute.''

However, online reviews of the substance show it is used as a marijuana substitute. A young Australian couple, calling themselves The Broke Stoners, gave the product high marks on a YouTube clip after consuming a couple of cones in a bong.

Comments accompanying the review indicate users aren't buying Jungle Fever for its aromatic qualities.

''Mate, this is weird shit. I bought some at New Year's and smoked a couple of cones when I was out with friends - just as well - I was completely and utterly shitfaced and could hardly walk and this is from someone who has smoked ganja for many years,'' 777Psychodelia wrote.

Victoria Police are investigating Jungle Fever following recent claims by a Melbourne mother that her son had become addicted and ended up in psychiatric care.

Vortex Inferno is apparently even more potent, according to a Canberra recreational drug user who alerted Fairfax to the issue.

''It is not a recreational drug experience,'' he said. ''It is psychosis, instant paranoia. Normal marijuana makes you hungry and makes you sleep. With this you swear you'll never touch it again then, after 15 or 20 minutes, you straighten up and then go back for more.''

He said the free availability of the synthetic product lent weight to calls to legalise natural marijuana and made a mockery of restrictions on tobacco sales and plain-labelling legislation.

''A juvenile can't walk into a tobacconist and buy cigarettes,'' he said. ''But they can walk in and buy this. I have friends who sell marijuana and they would never deal to someone under-age. It is a weird world where drug dealers have stronger moral scruples than corporates.''

Restrictions were placed on products classed as ''synthetic cannabinoids'' in 2011. However, whether a product meets this classification is complicated and typically requires lab testing.

ACT Attorney-General Simon Corbell said the city did not have a problem with synthetic cannabinoids.

''Since the introduction of restrictions in 2011 the Health Directorate has not received reports about the supply of banned synthetic cannabinoids within the ACT,'' he said. ''There has been no evidence of the products' prevalence in the ACT.''

Fairfax has found that substances being actively marketed on the internet as marijuana substitutes are freely available and widely used in the territory.

ACT Policing said only 2.374 grams of kronic, ''a type of synthetic cannabis'', had been handed in during an amnesty after the initial ban in July 2011. ''[Test] results indicated it was not a prohibited substance,'' a spokesman said.

Canberra police have yet to make any arrests in relation to cannabinoids and only two seizures have been made in the past 19 months.

''The first seizure occurred on November 27, 2011, and weighed 2.798 grams and was found as a result of police attendance at a mental health incident,'' the spokesman said. The second seizure was only 0.3 grams.

Products such as Kronic, Jungle Fever and Vortex Inferno are said to provide a marijuana-like experience but without the risk of detection by police or employer drug testing.

Despite the bans introduced in 2011 synthetic cannabinoids are not listed as controlled drugs in the ACT Criminal Code. This means people selling traffickable quantities are not committing the offence of trafficking under the ACT law.


Mr Corbell is considering changing that. If he does, individual vendors could be jailed for up to 10 years and/or fined $110,000.

ACT Policing said now Jungle Fever had been brought to its attention criminal investigators would look into the matter. ''We would encourage members of the public to come forward if they have information about the supply or distribution of synthetic cannabinoids.''

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