The synthetic drugs bill

The Herald reports:

Unlikely bedfellows the National Party and New Zealand First are working together to put peddlers of synthetic behind bars for longer – possibly up to 14 years.

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.

“I would be very surprised if they didn’t support it,” Ball told the Herald.

The bill’s sponsor, National MP Simeon Brown, said the caucus would have to discuss the 14-year prison penalty.

“There’s certainly an argument that [suppliers] need to be taken seriously, so we’re on the same page and we will discuss where to from here.”

The status quo for synthetic drugs is obviously unacceptable. Almost 50 people have died from them.

I’m not convinced this bill is the solution though. I think in the short term it may drive down production by scaring off some producers. But you may get unintended consequences such as the gangs moving in and producing them.

Labour and Green MPs all acknowledged the social destruction from synthetic drugs, but pointed to police evidence that increasing penalties would not make any difference.

Ball even agreed that the bill was not perfect and would do little to stop the harm from synthetic drugs.

“Will it stop all of those deaths? Will it stop all of those people from becoming addicted? Probably not,” he said during the second reading.

“But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be taking a hard stance on those manufacturers and those dealers.”

The war on drugs for the last few decades doesn’t seem to have worked so well.

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