The use of synthetic cannabis products by forestry workers is a growing concern for Gisborne and national industry leaders, who are moving quickly to ensure the new substances are included in a current drug policy.
The drug and alcohol-free workplace policy has been in place in the industry for more than eight years, said Juken New Zealand Ltd forests general manager Sheldon Drummond, chairman of the New Zealand Forest Owners Association health, safety and training committee.
Work was being carried out so that a wider range of drugs could be detected from random testing in the workplace, he said.
``The introduction of synthetic substances may require further system improvements but the industry is committed to making changes as required,'' he said.
The use of Kronic, Spice, Dream, K2 and other synthetic cannabis products were as much of a danger in the workplace as alcohol and other drugs, Mr Drummond said.
``Our forest industry has many potential dangers for those who are not fully aware, and the issue of impairment through drug and alcohol use is a huge concern to us.
``Employers are legally bound to take all practicable steps to ensure safety. In our business, all tasks that are safety-sensitive, which is almost all forest industry jobs, must be drug and alcohol-free.''
NZ Drug Detection Agency managing director Kirk Hardy said testing for legal synthetic cannabis products became available recently.
``We work very closely with high-risk industries such as aviation, transport, civil engineering and mining companies, with their employee drug testing programmes.
``We're now seeing more corporates wishing to include these legal drugs in their on-site workplace drug testing regimes.''
The effects of taking synthetic cannabinoid products mimicked the effects of traditional cannabis with users experiencing euphoria and paranoia, Mr Hardy said.
However, Kronic and others were anecdotally known to be much more potent than illegal cannabis.
``Employers need to draw a line in the sand now. Using the analogy of alcohol -- which is of course also readily accessible -- employers must take a stand.''
Last month, Associate Minister of Health Peter Dunne announced amendments would be made to the Misuse of Drugs Act which would make synthetic cannabis a Class D drug, making it a restricted substance.