Call for 'dangerous' synthetic cannabis to be banned

In the experience of Whangarei man Hugh Van Harlingen, synthetic cannabis product K2 is dangerous and should be banned immediately.
In the experience of Whangarei man Hugh Van Harlingen, synthetic cannabis product K2 is dangerous and should be banned immediately. Michael Cunningham - Northern Advocate

A WHANGAREI man says smoking synthetic cannabis caused seizures that led to his losing his job and left him unable to drive for 12 months.

Hugh Van Harlingen, aged in his 50s, is urging others not to experiment with the "dangerous substances."

He says smoking synthetic cannabis product K2 was the biggest mistake he ever made.

Mr Van Harlingen decided to go public after reading in Wednesday's Northern Advocate that Whangarei lawyer Dave Sayes had written to the Government urging an immediate ban on synthetic cannabis products.

"I saw that article and just had to speak out ... I had to let others know what I have been through after smoking K2. K2 ruined my life and I don't want others to go through it," he said.

Mr Van Harlingen said he had been a cannabis smoker, but gave the habit up before trying K2 about five months ago after friends said he might enjoy it.

But two months later his life was in tatters after he lost his job due to getting seizures in the workplace, fits that also led to his being banned from driving until he had been seizure-free for 12 months, because medical experts could not be sure they would not happen again.

"I wasn't a heavy user of K2, just a couple of nights a week to help me relax after work, and I thought that because it was legal it must be safe. But boy was I wrong. It's caused me major problems."

About two months after starting smoking K2 he had had a seizure at work, the morning after having a toke at home.

"It was the first time I ever had anything like that happen to me. I just completely blacked out and can't remember anything about it, but I was fitting, and my arms and legs were jerking about and I was foaming at the mouth," he said.

"All I can remember is waking up in the ambulance on the way to hospital wondering what the hell was going on, but I didn't link it to K2 at that stage."

He was taken to hospital, but doctors were unable to find out what was wrong. His workplace stuck by him, but said he would not be able to drive any of its vehicles.

Then a short time later he had another seizure at work and he had to be let go because of his inability to drive and concerns over workplace safety.

Mr Van Harlingen admits he didn't read the instructions on the K2 closely, but assumed it would be like cannabis, given that it was marketed as synthetic cannabis.

"But it was different from cannabis and much worse. There was something odd about the feeling it gave."

While the doctors were struggling to find out what was wrong with him, the seizures ceased within days of quitting K2 and now, three months later, he has not had another.

"Now I'm on a sickness benefit and nobody will employ me because I can't drive for 12 months and because I've had seizures at work. It's messed my life up big time," Mr Van Harlingen said.

A Psychoactive Substances Bill has been tabled in Parliament by Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne and is expected to pass by August 1.

The bill will restrict the importation, manufacture, and supply of psychoactive substances and only allow the sale of psychoactive substances that can meet safety and manufacturing requirements.

But Mr Van Harlingen said August was too long to wait: "It needs to happen now. This stuff is just too dangerous."

Topics:  editors picks job loss seizures synthetic cannabis

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