Home // 2019 // March

What is synthetic cannabis?

Synthetic cannabis has been seized n a series of raids on Queensland adult shops. Photo: Supplied Commercial-type packaging feeds a perception that synthetic cannabis is safe, according to police. Photo: Supplied

It’s been described by police as a drug not fit for human consumption, so what exactly is synthetic cannabis and what makes it so dangerous?

The manufactured substance this week linked to the deaths of two men in Mackay exploded onto the Australian illicit drug scene in 2009, according to Queensland Police Detective Acting Sergeant Clay Butler.

The State Drug Squad synthetic drugs investigation specialist said the drug was manufactured in clandestine production houses, often with untested chemicals imported from overseas in powder form.

The compounds are mixed with acetone, sprayed on dried, readily available green herbs and sold in retail outlets such as adult stores and herb shops, where the drug is often packaged and marketed as a legal alternative to cannabis.

But it is far from legal, Detective Sergeant Butler said.

The chemicals used aim to mimic and often magnify the high of cannabis by stimulating the same cannabanoid receptors in the brain, he said, and though it continued to trail the drug it aims to replicate and methamphetamines in street popularity, it is no less concerning.

“These drugs are sometimes developed for medical research, some are brand new, there are no human trials and people selling the products are using the public as the guinea pigs,” he said.

“If there is an adverse reaction, they don’t care.”

The ever-changing array of the chemical compounds used also provide a challenge to health practitioners who treat those who use synthetic cannabis.

Professor Jennifer Martin,of the University of Queensland’s Faculty of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, said the differing compounds used often meant doctors did not know exactly what they were dealing with.

“With standard cannabis you know what you get when you take it, but with these other chemicals you mix with a whole lot of other chemicals that switch on or off different pathways in the brain and can have a whole lot of effects on other organs,” she said.

“It could be things we use to kill animals, to get rid of weeds, there is one agent that comes from a plant used to treat cancer, so if you had enough of that, it’s enough to kill healthy cells.

“We are certainly not advocating people go out and use cannabis but the effects of synthetic cannabis can be much worse.”

Detective Sergeant Butler said there remained a perception the drug was safe, due to its initial ready availability in retail stores and commercial-type packaging.

“Those people who are selling it aren’t retailers, they are drug dealers,” he said.

“All they are interested in doing is selling the product to make money. You are buying a product that has no ingredient list, you don’t know what the potency is and you are putting your life at risk when you have no idea what you are taking.”

Professor Jake Najman, director of the Queensland Alcohol and Drug Research and Education Centre, said many people were looking to avoid possible legal implications of buying cannabis by purchasing a product they thought to be legal.

“What worries me is people have died, it is unlikely they would have died had they used cannabis,” he said.

“If you stop young people from using one drug, you don’t stop them from using drugs.

“The government is busily trying to put out fires but not really doing anything about the underlying problem, which is that a lot of young people experiment with drugs.

“The question is, what should we be doing to try and limit the harm and risk to them.

“We certainly don’t want anyone dying.”

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BT’s best: We name Queensland’s top 10 markets

Jan Powers Markets have kicked off the year as biggest farmers’ markets in Brisbane. Photo: SuppliedEach week, Brisbane Times is on a mission to find the best of pretty much everything in Queensland, and with a little bit of help from our Facebook audience, we’ll be compiling a Top 10. 

Not everyone will agree. We know that, so stand up for your favourite during the discussion. This week, we’re off to market – on the Sunshine Coast, in Cairns, Toowoomba, the Gold Coast and Brisbane.

From fresh produce, to arts and vintage clothing, there are no shortage of markets around the state. Here are 10 of the best.

1. Eumundi Markets Open Saturdays 7am to 2pm and Wednesdays 8am to 1.30pm

For decades the Eumundi Markets have continued to be a Queensland favourite, attracting customers from far and wide with their vibrant atmosphere, mouth-watering street food, diverse array of produce and inspired artworks and homewares.

Add in the town’s friendly and nostalgic ambience and some beautiful beaches just a stone’s throw away, the Eumundi Markets make an ideal weekend activity.

2.Carseldine Markets

Open Saturdays from 6am to 12pm

A welcome addition to the north side, the Carseldine Markets are growing to be the largest farmers market in the area, with more than 180 stalls ranging from fresh produce to a variety of street food to treatments and homeware products.

Open every Saturday from 6am to noon, vendors from as far away as Redcliffe and the Sunshine Coast present fresh, locally made yoghurt smoothies and hand-crafted trinkets for customers to treat themselves to.

3. Toowoomba PCYC Markets Open Sundays from 7am to 12.30pm.

For around 25 years, the Toowoomba PCYC Markets have been a staple in the area as well as a prime example of grassroots markets, with proceeds going towards the PCYC and the wider community.

Selling goods as varied as crafts, bric-a-brac, store-type new items and their famous fruit and vegies, these markets pride themselves on their basic, ‘what you see is what you get’ approach, with low prices and cheap rates for stallholders.

4. Brisbane MarketPlace Rocklea

Open Saturdays and Sundays from 6am to 12pm.

Heralding itself as Brisbane’s premier public market facility, the Brisbane MarketPlace in Rocklea is so diverse it has two styles of market to choose from over the weekend; Saturday Fresh Markets and Sunday Discovery Markets.

Saturday Fresh Markets are for the foodies and nature lovers, with a huge range of plants, fresh produce and delectable cuisines, while Sunday Discovery Markets cater to those looking for a bargain on collectables, home renovation products, books, CD’s, DVD’s and more.

5. The Noosa Farmers’ Market Open Sundays from 7am to 12pm.

“From humble beginnings in 2001 serving just a few hundred customers, The Noosa Farmers’ Market has excelled in attracting around 6000 customers from Australia and overseas, and was voted “#1 market in Australia” on TripAdvisor in 2013.

These markets provide fresh, local produce to a range of customers, with nut milk for vegans, freshly squeezed lime drinks for Paleo people, and for meat lovers, one regular farmer kills a cow every week just for this market – can’t get much fresher than that!

6. Jan Powers Farmers Markets Opening times: Powerhouse – Saturdays 6am to 12pm (was previously every second Saturday, but moving to every Saturday from February); Queen Street – Wednesdays 10am to 6pm; Manly – every third Saturday every month, 6am to 12pm; Mitchelton – every first Sunday every month, 6am to 12pm

Kicking off the year as the biggest farmer’s market in Brisbane, Jan Powers Farmers Markets offers a huge variety of stores and produce across four locations, including New Farm, Queen Street, Manly Harbour and Mitchelton.

Along with diversity of location comes diversity of fresh produce for these markets, with a range of seafood, oils, breads, meats, pasta, cakes and spices to set your taste buds tingling.

7. The Gap Farmers’ Market Open the second and fourth Sunday every month – next scheduled for January 25.

The Gap Farmers’ Market is a not-for-profit market that began June last year and has already become one of the most successful farmers’ markets in the state thanks to Moggill Market operators Erica and John Parker’s input.

Boasting 80-90 stalls and often attracting roughly 3000 visitors, the Gap Farmers’ Market has a make it or grow it policy upheld by local farmers and craftspeople, and fosters community spirit by turning market proceeds back over to local schools and community initiatives.

8. The Handmade Expo

Opening times: Ipswich – next scheduled for Saturday, February 21, 8am to 2pm; Morayfield – next scheduled for Sunday, March 1, 9am to 2pm; Rockhampton – next scheduled for Saturday, February 14, 9am to 2pm; Bundaberg – Saturday, February 22, 9am to 2pm; Rockingham – Sunday, February 8, 9am to 2pm; Forest Hill – no scheduled dates.

Priding themselves on ‘making, baking and growing’, The Handmade Expo is a chain of markets which began at the Ipswich Showgrounds in 2008 before expanding out into a 90 to 150 stall monthly event for homemade goods makers.

Take your pick of expo locations from Ipswich, Morayfield, Rockhampton, Bundaberg, Perth (Rockingham) and Forest Hill, and explore funky fabrics, beautiful baby goods, and cute crochets.

9. The Collective Markets South Bank

Open Fridays 5pm to 9pm, Saturdays 10am to 9pm and Sundays 9am to 4pm.

Bribanites all over have soaked up the warm, vibrant atmosphere of The Collective Markets in Stanley Street Plaza for a couple of years now, taking in inspired works of art, craft, fashion and photography from local stallholders.

What really makes these markets a memorable activity is the lively South Bank location, with many a cafe or bar to relax in and observe fellow shoppers enjoy some handmade handicrafts.

10. Carrara Markets

Open Saturdays and Sundays from 7am to 4pm.

Carrara Markets is one of the older venues on the circuit, open for more than 20 years. It’s also one of the largest, with more than 400 stalls offering a wide range of products.

There’s plenty of imported fashion and handicraft, but a nice mix of locally-produced goods as well, including paintings and timber art for around the home. Take your walking shoes and bring the family.

Brunswick Street Markets – watch this space!

The Fortitude Valley Markets have been operating in Brisbane for 22 years, but for 2015 are coming back revamped, with a greater focus on designer fashion for young people.

With its new layout set up along Brunswick St and Chinatown Malls, the Valley Markets will be open from 9am to 4pm Saturday and 9am to 3pm Sunday, with plans for a new night time market in the works for 2015.

Eat Street Markets

Where: Macarthur Avenue, Hamilton

When: Friday (4pm – 10pm) and Saturday (4pm – 10pm)

Kuranda Original Rainforest Markets

Where: 7/13 Therwine Street, Kuranda.

When: Every day from 9.30am to 3pm.

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Cold case evidence bungle never reviewed

Elvira Buckingham with a picture of her daughter Michelle. Photo: Ray SizerThe pain of not knowing

Cold-case murder evidence – destroyed during a bungled Victoria Police relocation 20 years ago – could have been lost from about 140 unsolved murders, with detectives in the dark about how badly homicide investigations have been compromised because force command has never investigated what was lost.

Some detectives have revealed they only learnt of the 1994 mistake when they reopened cold-case investigations years later and discovered evidence was missing. Families of murder victims, who have waited decades for answers, fear that the bungle will mean they never see justice for murdered loved ones.

An Age analysis has found that about 140 murders remain unsolved from between 1943 – when the homicide squad was formed – and 1994, when the evidence was destroyed.

Of these cases, it is believed evidence – including samples which could now be tested for DNA – was taken from up to 40 files, but police will not explain why a review of the missing evidence, and the cases affected, was never completed.

After questioning from The Age, force command confirmed on Thursday that an urgent review had now been ordered into the missing evidence.

“Until the review and prioritisation is completed, we are not in a position to comment on the status of exhibits relevant to cold-case investigations,” a police spokeswoman said.

Families who may have been affected, and current and former homicide squad detectives, said the force needed to explain why it had taken 20 years for a review to occur.

Detectives said that  although making public the cases that had lost evidence could hamper investigations, there was no reason why families should not be told privately that their cases had been affectedif it appeared material was missing from their files.

In 1994, as Victoria Police prepared to move exhibits from Russell Street to Collingwood, the eight crews of homicide squad detectives were asked to review cases to determine which evidence was no longer needed.

Police sources say that each crew developed a list and gave that to the squad’s inspector. Detectives estimated evidence in up to 40 cold cases was signed off on for destruction.

The exhibits could have been destroyed for a number of reasons – they were labelled “biohazards” or they had been through the inquest stage – but the decision infuriated some police, who say the possibilities of new DNA technology were just being realised.

The inspector who approved the destruction of evidence is no longer in the force and could not be contacted. It is unclear what has happened to the original audit document.

Retired homicide squad detective Charlie Bezzina remembers the audit being conducted. He said the decision to destroy evidence would have been based on ignorance of what future technology could do for old exhibits.

“It was all crystal ball stuff in those days, I wouldn’t attest to the word negligence. DNA in those days weren’t as big as it is now and judgments were made,” Mr Bezzina said.

“If was up to investigators we would hold everything … but the cold, hard facts are we don’t have the facilities, no one has the facilities, to keep umpteen exhibits.”

He said property management has always been a problem for Victoria Police.

“Exhibits do get lost.”

Sources also say it was more likely exhibits in lesser-known cases were destroyed. Victoria’s most prominent unsolved murders are likely to have complete files, with the 1977 Easey Street killings and the 1953 Shirley Collins case, for example, still intact.

One low-profile case, the 1983 killing of Shepparton 16-year-old Michelle Buckingham, is the only homicide that Fairfax Media has been able to confirm had exhibits destroyed in 1994.

Michelle’s mother, who still lives in Shepparton, first learnt of the bungle during a committal hearing last November.

Other families who Fairfax Media contacted, most of whom had loved ones slain in the ’70s and ’80s, had never even been told that evidence was destroyed.

In 1990, Sarah MacDiarmid disappeared from a train station near Seaford. It remains one of the state’s most well-known cold cases. Her father, Peter MacDiarmid, is adamant a cigarette lighter, found where the 23-year-old was last seen, has gone missing.

“You’re dealing with human beings and human beings are prone to error, but if they were lost in the move, if it was a deliberate order to destroy them because they didn’t think they would need them again, that’s the height of negligence,” he said.

Daryl Floyd, whose brother Terry Floyd was abducted and murdered in 1975, is in contact with the families of about 14 unsolved murder victims.

“They don’t feel there’s enough contact in relation to what’s going on with their case. A family can live a lifetime of not knowing what happened to their loved one let alone what’s going on with their case,” Mr Floyd said.

“This is not [a criticism] of Victoria Police, there are great detectives within the rank and file. Unfortunately, they’re hampered by budget constraints, resources and time.”

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All together now, for Australia Day

Organisers hope singer Anja Nissen will be joined by 23 million people around the country in singing the national anthem on Australia Day. Photo: Daniel MunozA nationwide rendition of the national anthem and an overt display of military muscle are among new features of this year’s Australia Day celebrations.

Taking centre stage in the salute and amid the flotilla of vessels on Sydney Harbour this year will be the Royal Australian Navy’s newest and largest warship, HMAS Canberra, which will be berthed between the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge.

Sydney organisers pushed hard to design a moment that will unite all Australians and bring a diverse country together. They have settled upon synchronised choirs around Sydney Harbour that will lead spectators in song before a 21-gun salute as part of a “ceremonial display of respect”.

But perhaps the most ambitious element of the day is the council’s hope that Australians across the nation will down barbecue tools and cold stubbies at noon and stand shoulder to shoulder in song for a mass rendition of Advance Australia Fair, a tradition the council is hoping will catch on.

Australia Day Victoria chairman Stefan Romaniw supported the salute and the singing.

“I think we should be proud. Will everybody do it? Probably not. But we would certainly encourage all those who feel part of the Australian community to do it,” he said.

“We think anything that’s going to promote Australia Day and make people aware is a good thing.

“We’re also saluting all those that have served Australia, all those that make it safe, and all those that protect us.”

Melbourne’s official celebrations will centre around the Town Hall, where the Royal Australian Navy Band and children from the Victorian State School Spectacular will perform, and the Australian flag will be raised.

Once the flag is hoisted, a parade will proceed through Swanston Street and St Kilda Road to celebrate the city’s vibrant multicultural communities.

At the same time, Kings Domain and the Treasury Gardens will be transformed into festival sites, celebrating the traditional Aussie picnic and Aboriginal dance and culture.

At 4.20pm, at the Shrine of Remembrance, a sombre flag lowering ceremony will mark the centenary of World War I.

HMAS Canberra, commissioned in November, is the star vessel in the navy’s relatively modest fleet.

Mr Frangopoulos said: “This is by far the biggest and most ambitious Australia Day we’ve staged.”

Those of us who struggle to remember lyrics beyond the first verse of the anthem’s “joyful strains” might well agree.

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