The parents of a young father who died after he used synthetic drugs have teamed up with an Auckland MP to push for tougher penalties for those who supply the toxic and increasingly fatal substances.
Calum Jones, 22, died at his family home in Henderson on September 1.
He had been battling an addiction to synthetic drugs for years and had only been home from full-time rehab for one day when he died.
Sadly, despite doing better than he had in years and getting on top of his severe addiction, Jones used synthetic drugs shortly before his death.
As a result of a police investigation into Jones' death, 23-year-old West Harbour man
Jonathan Gordon was charged with supplying a psychoactive substance.
He will reappear in the Waitakere District Court this week.
A person convicted of supplying psychoactives faces a maximum of two years in prison - but a new bill before Parliament could see that increased to eight years.
Today Jones' parents Lorraine and Lewis met with the man behind the bill, National MP for Pakuranga Simeon Brown.
Lewis Jones emailed Brown last week after the bill was pulled from the ballot.
He told the MP he wanted to help in any way he could, to get the penalty increased.
Brown lodged the Private Members Bill - his first since he was elected as an MP last year - in December.
The Psychoactive Substances (Increasing Penalty for Supply and Distribution) Amendment Bill was drawn from the ballot last Wednesday and is expected to have its first reading in Parliament by mid-March.
The bill proposes to increase the penalties for those who supply illegal psychoactive drugs to the community from two years to eight years.
In 2017 there were at least 25 deaths referred to the Coroner believed to be the result of synthetic drug use.
"My Bill will amend the Act to ensure that those who supply illegal psychoactive drugs onto the market face the same type of conviction as they would if they were supplying a Class C Drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975," Brown Said.
"The type of drug being supplied to the market is very different to what was envisioned when the Psychoactive Substances Act was brought into force in 2013.
"This Bill is necessary in order to protect our communities and young people from these harmful drugs, to deter those who are supplying them into the market, and to give police stronger powers to crack down on suppliers."
Brown met with Jones' parents at their Henderson home today.
The Herald was there as the trio discussed the aims of the bill, and how Jones' family could work with Brown to affect a change they feel New Zealand desperately needs.
Jones' parents believe the impact and danger of synthetics has been minimalised in New Zealand and they have vowed to do all they can to get the message across to the community - and to protect other families from experiencing their loss and grief.
Lewis Jones said since his son died he had been "just chasing ghosts" trying to get answers and make sense of the tragedy.
He hoped that by working with Brown he could make a real difference.
"For us to act on our own, we've got not chance, but with you …" he told Brown.
"We're both fighting this - and we can fight this together," Brown replied.
"Something's got to happen, there's too many people dying."
Jones' mother relayed to the new MP that in the months before her son died he was desperate to get clean.
He wanted to move in with his girlfriend, propose to her at Christmas and be a better son and father to his almost-3-year-old daughter.
He wanted to work, travel and help others beat their addiction.
"He was terrified of his addiction - terrified," she said.
"He said to me 'I'm scared mum, it's taking over me.
"Calum was no angel, he was an addict and we haven't put him on any kind of pedestal - we just want to stop this happening to anyone else."
Brown said there were many issues around synthetics that he wanted to tackle.
The bill was a start, and he hoped to get cross-party support.
He said he had the full backing of the National Party and had reached out to New Zealand First.
He would speak with the other parties as soon as possible.
"This is an issue that everyone should be supporting." he said.
"Everyone can see the harm these drugs are doing, we need to do something about it."
Lewis Jones said it was hard to speak about his son's death but he would do what it takes to reduce the harm synthetics were doing to Kiwi families.
"You've got to strike a spark to light a fire," he said.
"Calum would never back down without a fight … so I won't."
What are synthetic drugs?
• Smokable products containing varieties of plant matter that have been infused with synthetic cannabinomimetic or other often-toxic substances.
• They were intended to be a legal alternative to cannabis, but are now banned.
• Synthetic drugs have been linked to an increased risk of seizures.
• Effects include, but are not limited to: decreased motor co-ordination, fast or irregular heartbeat, disassociation, dizziness, paranoia, psychosis.
• Use of synthetic drugs in New Zealand has also been linked to renal failure and heart failure.
Where to get help
• If you, or someone you know, is using synthetic drugs, police urge you to stop immediately and seek help if needed by contacting your local GP or by ringing the Alcohol and Drug Helpline on 0800 787 797 or text 8681 seven days a week to speak to a trained counsellor.
• If you or someone else is in immediate danger, call 111.