Synthetic crackdown: Will it reach those most at need?

There is concern a health approach to synthetic drugs will not reach our most vulnerable.

Police will now have the powers to crack down on dealers supplying two Class A products, and refer users to treatment services.

"Under current laws synthetics and other dangerous drugs are killing people and fuelling crime while dealers and manufacturers get rich," Health Minister David Clark said on Thursday. "The current approach is failing to keep Kiwis safe and can't be continued."

But Sue Paton from the Addiction Practitioners' Association says people living on the street will fall through the cracks.

"We'd like to see there's something put in place to make sure it is equally applied, and also people that are really on the margins - like the people that are sleeping rough."

Ms Paton says our homeless should be front and centre on the issue.

"They're much less likely to turn up at some arranged appointment, much less likely potentially to get diversion. I just think there needs to be a little bit of thought about how those things are managed."

She hopes recommendations in the recent mental health inquiry will help solve the issue.

A coroner's report in June linked the drugs to as many as 45 deaths in a year, compared with two deaths in the previous five years, and there have been over 1000 related ambulance callouts in a year.

What the Government will do:

  • Classify the two main synthetic drugs (5F-ADB and AMB-FUBINACA) linked to recent deaths as Class A. This will give police the search and seizure powers they need to crackdown on suppliers and manufacturers, who will also face tougher penalties - up to life imprisonment.
  • Create a temporary drug classification category, C1, so new drugs can easily be brought under the Misuse of Drugs Act.
  • Specify in law that police should not prosecute for possession and personal use where a therapeutic approach would be more beneficial, or there is no public interest in a prosecution. This will apply to the use of all illegal drugs.
  • Allocate $16.6 million to boost community addiction treatment services.