A bill to toughen up prison sentences for suppliers of psychoactive drugs is set to pass its first reading thanks to the backing of National and Labour's coalition partner, New Zealand First.
National's Pakuranga MP Simeon Brown's private member's bill, which would increase the maximum penalty for supplying psychoactive drugs from two to eight years' jail, will have its first reading in Parliament today.
Labour and the Green parties oppose the bill because they say it won't dent drug use or supply, but simply add to the country's burgeoning prison muster.
• READ MORE: Synthetic drugs tragedy: 'Calum was my whole world'
But Labour's coalition partner New Zealand First will support the first reading.
"The fact that the most vulnerable people are the ones targeted for distribution is not a good thing for our community," NZ First law and order spokesman Darroch Ball said.
"It does nothing but cause harm, so we need to target those dealers."
He added that the party's ongoing support for the bill was not guaranteed beyond select committee.
There have been at least 25 people believed to have died after using synthetic drugs.
Brown said the current penalty was too lenient, and the bill would also bring the maximum penalty for supply in line with the penalty for supplying Class C drugs, such as cannabis.
"These people are making money out of people's misery. The right message needs to be sent, and our communities need to be kept safe," Brown said.
Lewis Jones, whose 22-year-old son Calum died last year after taking synthetic cannabis, will be in Wellington for the first reading and welcomed the news that it will pass.
He said Parliament had set up the system that contributed to his son's death, and it needed "to fix their mess".
"At least something is happening. It's good news to hear some progress. It's acknowledgement from Parliament that there is a problem."
He said the bill wouldn't bring back Calum, but it "may save somebody's life".
Health Minister David Clark and Green Party justice spokeswoman Golriz Ghahraman said there was no evidence the bill would lower drug use or reduce supply.
"All it does it imprison people and add to the already ridiculously overpopulated prisons," Ghahraman said.
"It's just a very expensive, useless policy."
Drug Foundation executive director Ross Bell agreed, adding that the Government's focus should be on prevention and health services.
He said that 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."