On four separate occasions I have spoken in parliament about the need for reforms to the Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Act 1981 to make all possible forms of synthetic marijuana illegal.

This was in direct response to concerns raised with me by several residents who have family members now battling health issues and addiction to what they initially assumed was a harmless substance.

This assumption is based on the misguided belief that if something isn’t illegal (because it can be readily bought from local places including sex shops) the smoking of these chemicals can’t be harmful to your health. However, the reality is that synthetic marijuana has simply escaped the long arm of the law because producers are constantly changing the chemical recipe. Amendments to legislate against each new form take time to draft and then pass in Parliament and when they do, it is likely the criminals have changed the recipe and mix of chemicals.

The effects of synthetic marijuana on human health are significant. It is known to cause irregular heartbeat, psychosis, violence, seizures, stroke, kidney shut down and death. It is important that Victorians understand there is no safe form of synthetic marijuana.

The former Napthine Government banned 54 forms of the synthetic marijuana based on police toxicology results to try and keep pace with new products on the market. However the Andrews Government has not included any new substance bans for well over a year.

That said, the Victorian Parliament’s bipartisan Law Reform, Road and Community Safety Committee is now reviewing laws and procedures relating to synthetic drugs with reference to the effectiveness of testing, treatment programs and supply reduction strategies. As part of this work the committee will compare Victoria’s practices against those of neighbouring jurisdictions to bring us in line with more modern approaches.

In January 2016, the United Kingdom Parliament passed the Psychoactive Substances Bill which enshrines in British law a ban on all psychoactive substances. Their ground breaking legislation makes it an offence to produce, supply, offer, possess, import or export all psychoactive substances intended for human consumption. This will outlaw all forms of “legal” highs once and for all. This is different to Victoria’s substance by substance approach.

Some scientists have expressed concerns about the breadth of Britain’s legislation because it may hamper further research into brain diseases and disorders if certain chemicals are banned for use in experiments.

Some evidence does support the use of medicinal cannabis for certain conditions largely for the treatment of isolated symptoms associated with conditions like HIV/AIDS, MS, nausea from cancer treatment and chronic pain. Medicinal cannabis is not a cure and if not carefully prescribed by a physician can in fact aggravate an illness. Advocates of medicinal marijuana often overlook stronger evidence supporting the use of other legal medications.

I would like to see the Andrews Government follow the lead of the United Kingdom and ban synthetic marijuana in all its forms. If you have concerns about the sale and use of synthetic marijuana around the Yarra Valley, please contact my office on 9735 3208 or I would like to get your views to represent them in the Parliament.

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