Chief Coroner on synthetic cannabis
Statement from the Chief Coroner, Judge Deborah
Today I met with the Associate Health Minister Hon Peter Dunne at his request to discuss the recent deaths in the Auckland region potentially connected to the use of synthetic cannabis.
I share Mr Dunne's concern at the suffering synthetic cannabis and other illegal drugs are causing to the wider community. I also share his view of ensuring the public has as much information as possible about dangers of drug use.
I was first alerted by an Auckland-based coroner on the afternoon of Thursday 20 July who, as duty coroner, had noticed a number of deaths in that week, and after inquiring with Coronial Services, found there had been more in the two weeks before.
The following day (Friday 21 July) I was contacted by St John's medical director who raised with me his concern at the number of people they were transporting to hospital.
With a further death being reported overnight, I decided it was imperative that the public were warned as soon as possible, and a public statementfrom myself and the Police was issued later that day. Auckland District Health Board and St John also issued a public statement.
We are working closely with the Ministry of Health, Police, District Health Boards, ESR and pathologists to identify the substances involved and coroners will be providing updates as part of our role to prevent harm to the public.
The police and coronial investigations are at any early stage, and the exact causes of death have yet to be established. All of these cases have been assigned to Coroner Morag McDowell, to ensure all of the available information is before one coroner who can then liaise with other agencies.