Police are being accused of failing to pass on crucial information about synthetic cannabis to those who are dealing with the drug at the coal face.
The death toll has risen to eight after a 24-year-old man suspected of taking the drug died at Middlemore Hospital last night.
Police had known about a very strong kind of synthetic cannabis being used, called AMB-FUBINACA, for over a year now but only recently shared information about it with other organisations, Drug Foundation chief executive Ross Bell said.
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The cannabinoid was more than 75 times more potent that THC, the active ingredient in natural cannabis, and over the past year had become the most commonly detected type of cannabinoid in its lab, ESR Forensic Chemistry Manager Kevan Walsh said.
"It's gained some notoriety overseas... some have referred to it as a zombie drug," he said.
The results of ESR's testing were passed to the police, who were its clients, and it was up to them to share the information, Mr Walsh said.
However, police said they could not always share information if it related to coronial investigations or if it was before the court.
Mr Bell said that needed to change, especially in times of a public health crisis.
"There does need to be a clear protocol or process in place where that very important information is made more widely available to people like us, or drug treatment agencies, when the police make these discoveries, rather than sitting on the information," he said.
Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne agreed information between police and other authorities - including himself - needed to improve.
He said an emergency response unit was being set up between Auckland health authorities and police to try and get a handle on the situation.
"There's certainly been a problem in getting the information from police. I was a little surprised to get less than a couple of hours notice of their announcement last Friday. There's been no contact with my office at all on this."
"We need to be working together on this," he said.
A special incident response unit was being set up at the Auckland District Health Board in conjunction with police, to try and get a handle on what synthetic cannabis products were being used and how it could be stopped, Mr Dunne said.
Auckland Police said they still had no idea where the drug was coming from and were asking for the public's help.
Acting Detective Inspector Peter Florence said it was "a big worry" that people were taking synthetic cannabis.
Anyone who saw someone selling, smoking or manufacturing the drug were asked to contact the police," he said.