Press Release: NZ research confirms synthetic cannabis is low risk

Written by Legal Highs NZ on . Posted in Alcohol, Psychoactive Substances, Synthetic Cannabis

The STAR Trust today called for an end to the discrimination against consumers of synthetic cannabis.

This latest research into the ‘actual’ harms of cannabis – both synthetic and natural has revealed that cannabis in any form is extremely low risk.

The STAR Trust announced that the research shows that New Zealand has two categories of licensed legal highs. One group is low risk and the other group is high risk. The high risk group is the most popular and kills 14 New Zealanders’ every day on average.*

“Anyone serious about improving public health outcomes should focus their efforts on the high risk psychoactives and not the low risk psychoactives,” said Grant Hall, General Manager of Legal Highs industry body, The STAR Trust.  “Otherwise they could be seen to be supporting big alcohol and tobacco companies,” he believes.

“If someone drinks a bottle of vodka and dies do we ban vodka? No. But, if someone smokes a joint of cannabis and then vomits, it is front page news calling for a full ban because of the ‘harm’ caused. This is discrimination,” asserts Hall.

This latest research conducted by independent researcher Dr. Geoff Noller consolidated all the available data from before and after the passing of the Psychoactive Substances Act in July last year.

Doctor Noller said that since regulation the prevalence of harms has been reducing. “However, both the industry and government could do more to educate the public about the risks, as there still exists significant confusion around the concepts of low risk and safe use,” he said. “The data suggest that reported harms are primarily occurring outside the parameters of product guidelines and legal compliance.”

This research also seems to confirm that claims of ‘deadly chaos’ being created by low risk psychoactives are unfounded and misplaced, according to The STAR Trust.

The STAR Trust funded this independent research because the industry has been listening to concerns raised and wants to be sure that regulation is delivering better public health outcomes.

Cannabis, either natural or synthetic, is not only low risk but it actually shows significant potential as a medicine. The STAR Trust is also funding research into the potential of cannabis as a medicine to treat a wide variety of illnesses.

“The general public is being continuously fed a diet of media driven propaganda against consumers of low-risk psychoactives. This discrimination needs to stop. Until now there has never been a proper analysis of all the evidence around claims of harm,” said Grant Hall.

The Ministry of Health provided public health surveillance data and are considering the findings, which the industry also hopes will allay public concerns around the future of a regulated market for low risk psychoactive products.

  • MoH figures: Alcohol kills 800yr, Tobacco kills 4000/yr = 14/day on average.

Key Points

  1. The latest research into the actual harms of synthetic cannabis confirms that a range of harms occur which are consistent with those reported internationally;
  2. The reported harms, when compared to other licensed psychoactives, validate a low risk claim – especially when compared to alcohol;
  3. Since regulation the reported harms seem to be decreasing in line with a reduction of availability and removal of products that pose more than a low risk of harm;
  4. The report identified that many cases of harm occur outside the parameters of stated product guidelines and legal consumption;
  5. There is confusion amongst the population regarding ‘safe use’ and an opportunity exists for further education by both industry and government.

Alcohol Drug Helpline Calls 2012-2013 Synthetic Cannabis vs Cannabis vs Alcohol


For further information, please contact:
Dr Geoff Noller, PhD  021 471 042
Research Consultant – Substance Use and Policy Analysis

Angela McInerney  021 232 6047
Research Manager – The STAR Trust

The STAR Trust

The STAR Trust is a non-profit, NGO that advocates for regulatory systems which are evidence based and nurture harm minimisation, whilst also respecting an individual’s right to access low risk social tonics.

The STAR Trust is funded by private contributions from individuals and industry members committed to drug policy reform and research. The STAR Trust represents the industry and monitors a voluntary code of conduct for responsible operators.


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