A National MP's bill to increase jail sentences for the sale of synthetic cannabis is set to pass its first reading despite Labour opposition, thanks to support from New Zealand First.
Source: 1 NEWS
The bill, introduced by National's Simeon Brown, proposes raising the maximum sentence from two years to eight years and also calls for an inquiry into the support services offered to those addicted to synthetics.
It will have its first reading this afternoon and has the numbers to pass, despite being opposed by Labour and the Greens.
Deputy prime minister Winston Peters said his party was concerned about the number of deaths the drugs had caused.
"It will mean far fewer people will die on the streets of this country," he said of the bill.
"It's really serious and we don't care where better policy comes from."
Earlier in the day, Mr Brown on parliament's steps received a 1000-signature petition from Lewis Jones, the father of 22-year-old Calum Jones, who died from cannabis use last year.
The petition backs up Mr Brown's bill.
"I'm just here representing people who haven't got a voice, the ones that passed away. And the ones that are still being neglected and looking for help," Mr Jones told reporters.
"This is just one part of something that needs to be fixed ... but the deterrent has to be put in to stop the people actually selling it."
An at-times emotional Mr Jones said his son had been failed by health and addiction services.
Mr Brown told media he rejected the Drug Foundation's argument that tougher penalties didn't work.
"Part of tougher penalties is about providing a deterrent. The other part is actually by taking people who are supplying these drugs off our streets and locking them up," he said.
But he emphasised the bill was "two-pronged" and aimed to address levels of support for those addicted, as well as increasing punishments.
Synthetic cannabis is believed to have been involved in the deaths of at least 25 people in New Zealand last year.