Jail for possessing synthetic drug for sale

A woman who admitted possessing synthetic cannabis for sale at a time when people were dying from taking it has been jailed for six months.

Lani Hawkins, 21, was not charged with being responsible for the hospital admissions and deaths, but the police referred to the dangerous health effects of the drug when she pleaded guilty in November.

Hawkins admitted possessing the psychoactive substance for supply, and breaching a supervision sentence.

At the sentencing in the Christchurch District Court, defence counsel Rachel Wood said Hawkins had an available home detention address depending on the length of the sentence.

Judge Stephen O’Driscoll said a number of people had been admitted to Christchurch Hospital after taking the drug, and there were a number of deaths being investigated because of concerns over this product.

He said on October 4 police executed a search warrant on Hawkins’ address in Phillipstown and found 2.24g of synthetic cannabis and $145 in cash.

Hawkins’ pre-sentence report said she had a significant history of use, and decide to sell it to support herself. Her time in custody had been the longest she has been off the substance, he said.

Judge O’Driscoll said it was well known what the effects of using synthetic cannabis were, and there were concerns over those who used it, and supplied it.

He sentenced her to six months’ prison, and said she had buried her head in the sand and not complied with her previous supervision sentence, and therefore she could not apply for home detention. He acknowledged that she may have already served that time waiting to be sentenced.

Hawkins will have six months’ special parole conditions upon her release to attend programmes designed to help her with her habit.

He ordered the destruction of the drug-related items found at her home, and forfeiture of the cash.

He told Hawkins to take advantage of her release conditions, and not to touch synthetic cannabis again.

Police had told the court previously that over a two-week period in September and October, 19 people had been admitted to Christchurch Hospital with symptoms that included hallucinations, seizures, aggression, paranoia, anxiety, and overheating.

At the same time four people were suspected to have died from taking psychoactive substances, and many more deaths were being investigated with the substance as the suspected cause.