New Zealand Drug Foundation executive director Ross Bell has slammed Hone Harawira for floating the death penalty as a policy idea to combat methamphetamine.
The Mana party leader told The AM Show on Monday morning that he was 'absolutely serious' about his policy that Chinese people who import P should be executed.
Mr Bell said it's frightening that Mr Harawira is bringing up "the ultimate breach of human rights" as a solution to New Zealand's methamphetamine problem.
"In 2017 this conversation shouldn't be one that we're having, full stop. The thing that worries me is when these ideas, which are usually confined to the fringes of the internet, are mainstreamed by political candidates, when they're spoken about on national TV. All we see happening is you give license to people who hold those obscene views about the role of the death penalty, and it diverts attention away from real solutions".
"Sadly he didn't say it was an accident. He said it once, he said it twice, and he put out a press release about it."
Mr Harawira has singled out Chinese drug dealers in his policy because it's the biggest source of P. He told The AM Show "the greatest source for methamphetamine is China, the greatest source for the precursors of methamphetamine is China, the greatest source of expertise for the production of methamphetamine is China".
However Mr Bell said focusing on China as the source of P is short-sighted. "In fact we're also getting meth out of Mexico, we're getting methamphetamine from Canada, what are we killing Mexicans and Canadians now? Whether it's coming from China, Mexico, Canada or homegrown, it's going to exist as long as there's demand. So the best way to tackle New Zealand's drug problem is to focus on the demand."
Mr Harawira said he'd modelled his policy idea on Singapore, where they have a three-strikes penal policy and the execution of drug smugglers. They also use the cane as punishment for possession of marijuana, leading Mr Bell to ask whether the Mana leader would also back that policy.
Mr Bell said the policy would harm the people in the Northland electorate the most, the seat the Mana leader has his sights on. "When countries double down and try to fight a literal war on drugs like they're doing in Mexico, the people that get harmed most in those punitive approaches are the most vulnerable people. In this scenario the most vulnerable people are Hone's constituents in Northland."
The New Zealand Drug Foundation focuses on treatment, prevention and rehabilitation as solutions to the problems caused by drugs rather than focusing on punishment.
"You're not going to fix health and social problems through beating people and through executing people, as much as [Rodrigo] Duterte has tried that in the Philippines," Mr Bell said.
"New Zealand has a proud history on the world stage of speaking out against the death penalty and we should continue to do that. We should never entertain the idea that the death penalty is a justifiable thing."