Children as young as 11 are getting hooked on synthetic cannabis in a Napier suburb known for being a popular source of the drug.

Radio New Zealand reported that the Napier suburb of Maraenui had become known as a hotbed of synthetic cannabis.

A former user told RNZ that her two children were taken from her by Oranga Tamariki.

"The day they turned up to take my babies I was high as a kite."


The mother said she was now in rehab and trying to give up synthetic drugs, but it was difficult when it was "everywhere".

"Honestly if you had $20 you can just walk down the road and get one - it's that easy."

RNZ said there were at least 11 illegal drug outlets in Marenui of which five sold synthetic drugs.

Three deaths in the past year have been linked to synthetics.

Community advocate Minnie Ratana told RNZ "it's just blown up, it's like every second person is doing it or has done it''.

When synthetic drugs were banned in 2014, locals starting making it themselves.

Ratana said she knew of children as young as 11 who had started using the drug, and four years later were still "chasing it".

Police believe gangs like Mongrel Mob are linked to the sale of synthetics but locals told RNZ "ordinary people" were making the drug to feed their own addictions, or doing it to make money to survive.