Those on the frontline of the lethal synthetic cannabis crisis are urging politicians to decriminalise and regulate the drug.
Fifty people have died in the past year in New Zealand after using synthetic cannabis and the Government is still scrambling for a solution.
Psychotherapist Kyle Macdonald tells 1 NEWS decriminalisation is the answer that will keep the drug from going underground.
“I’m calling for the drug to be regulated so we can control what’s in the substance and remove the problem of criminal penalties for people who are struggling with addiction,” he says.
Elizabeth Hall, criminal defence lawyer, agrees.
“Decriminalisation and regulation is what works so let's ditch this failed social experiment of locking people up for longer and longer and longer,” she says.
Months ago, action was promised. Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters said “urgent action” and “serious answers” were needed.
Health Minister David Clark said the Government’s action plan will focus on harm reduction and reducing supply rather than just blaming users.
But so far, the only idea that has been made public is making some varieties A-class drugs, thereby increasing the penalties for use and supply.
Ms Hall says when a drug is prohibited, all that’s being done is giving a gift of money-making to organised crime.
Those who work in addiction services agree.
“The problem we have at the moment with the criminalisation is that we push people away from reaching out for help,” Odyssey House Chief Executive Fiona Trevelyan says.
“We want to see a response that focuses on people’s health, not a response that criminalises people for using substances that often they become really addicted to,” says the Salvation Army’s Lynette Hutson.
Advocates say it seems the Government is now at crossroads with synthetic drugs – continue increasing the penalties or adopt a new way of thinking.