A man who lost his son to synthetic cannabis addiction has made an impassioned plea for Parliament to impose tougher penalties for drug supply and increase health services.
Lewis Jones' son Calum died last year, days after he was moved from fulltime rehab to a day programme, meaning he left the facility to live at home.
Lewis Jones traveled from Auckland to Wellington today to hand a 1200-strong petition to National's Pakuranga MP Simeon Brown, whose member's bill will have its first reading today.
The bill, which would increase the maximum penalty for supplying psychoactive drugs from two to eight years' jail, will pass the first reading with the support of National and Labour's coalition partner NZ First.
Jones said he was at Parliament today to represent those "who haven't got a voice, the ones who have passed away, and the ones still being neglected and looking for help".
"My son actually died from his internal organs disintegrating [from drug abuse], and I didn't see it from the outside. It puts a lot on me because I didn't acutally know what was going on."
Jones said tougher penalites was one part of the solution, along with increasing health services, which failed his son.
"I fought like hell to get him into a drug detox centre ... I had to lie through my back teeth to get him into it.
"They let us down. I thought he was in a safe place, but a week before he died ... he was thrown out for a person who needed assistance who was an alcoholic. In that week, he passed away.
"My son's problem was depression. At 22 years old, he didn't have a job. He'd been through so many job interviews and 90-day trials periods, and kept coming back to the same point."
There have been 25 deaths believed to be linked to psychoactive substances.
Labour and the Greens will oppose the bill because they don't believe it will reduce drug harm.
"All it does it imprison people and add to the already ridiculously overpopulated prisons," Green's justice spokeswoman Golriz Ghahraman said.
"It's just a very expensive, useless policy."
Simeon Brown said a harsher penalty would provide a deterrent.
"The other part is taking these people off the streets and locking them up.
"New Zealanders want us to be tough on drugs, and this bill is going to do that."
New Zealand First leader Winston Peters said the bill would see far fewer people die on the streets.
"Have you seen how many people have died from these substances?
"These [suppliers] are merchants of death and the number of people who've died is clear evidence of that."
Brown received the petition with the support of National MPs Maggie Barry, Simon O'Connor, Tim van de Molen and Matt King.
He said part of his bill was asking for a Health Select Committee inquiry into how the system deals with those suffering with addiction to synthetic drugs.
The bill would also bring the maximum penalty for supply in line with the penalty for supplying Class C drugs, such as cannabis.
Drug Foundation executive director Ross Bell said the bill would have "zero impact" and the law around psychoactive substances was set to be reviewed this year anyway.
"So why waste Parliament's time tinkering with a small part of that review when the whole law itself will be reviewed?
"This member's bill has come from a National MP, and National were in Government when these deaths were happening. It's ironic that they can look like they are tough on drugs when, in Government, there was no action whatsoever."