A bill before Parliament seeks to put the peddlers of synthetic drugs behind bars for longer.

The Psychoactive Substances Amendment Bill, which would increase the maximum jail time for supplying synthetic drugs from two years to eight years, passed its second reading in Parliament last week.

National and New Zealand First supported it, while Labour, the Greens and Act opposed.

But NZ First justice spokesman Darroch Ball said his party's ongoing support depended on National backing an amendment to boost the maximum prison sentence to 14 years, in line with penalties for Class B drugs such as morphine, opium and ecstasy.

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The move comes at a time when many are questioning whether a punitive approach to curbing illicit drug use actually works and as an increasing number of countries are relaxing drug laws, especially when it comes to cannabis.

So, is the Psychoactive Substances Amendment Bill, which would increase the maximum jail time for supplying synthetic drugs from two years to eight years, going against the tide?

Perhaps, but for a good reason.

Up to 45 people have died through using synthetic cannabis in the year to June. That compared to only two deaths in the previous five years and, as a result, Cabinet is seeking urgent advice over the spike in fatalities.

The bill is needed to show the country is taking a hard stance on a drug that is causing extreme harm.

The bill might not be perfect, and Ball even agreed that it may do little to stop the harm from synthetic drugs.

"But that doesn't mean we shouldn't be taking a hard stance on those manufacturers and those dealers."

And that's the point.

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Yes, a multi-agency approach is needed for the broader issues of why people choose to use these substances, but those who deal synthetic drugs, who are aware of the extreme harm they cause, need to be held to account for profiting from other's misery.