A change in the law to give the police more power to tackle makers and sellers of synthetic drugs could be on the map, says the police minister.
After the disclosure last month that in the past year up to 45 people died of plastics, the Ministries of Health and Justice, the police and customs have set up a working group to find possible solutions to deal with the crisis.
The Psychoactive Substances Act that regulated synthetics was "inadequate" and moving to the Misuse of Drugs Act was a possible solution, said police chief Stuart Nash.
"The psychoactive chemicals legislation is not the right legislation for dealing with synthetic cannabis," said Mr Nash.
"This is filthy, incredibly cheap and easy to make, but at the moment the police simply do not have the power to go after those who produce and sell it in the way they do in the context of the Misuse of Drugs Act. "
The maximum fine for making or selling synthetic substances under the Psychoactive Substances Act is currently two years in prison.
According to the Drug Abuse Law, the maximum penalty for delivering methamphetamine is life imprisonment and 14 years for natural cannabis, which is up to 70 times less potent than synthetic cannabis.
It was too early to say what punishment synthesis would be possible if the change were to continue, Mr Nash said.
But it would also give the police more power to search property and go after dealers, he said.
A police briefing on synthetic cannabis to the prime minister's ministry and the cabinet in July, obtained by RNZ, said the issue required a "strong health leap".
"We will not impose this problem," said the police briefing.
"In summary, the police believes that an effective response to synthetic cannabis would include both legislative change and an adequately funded multi-agency response under the direction of the Ministry of Health."
Boarder control was also a forerunner in the fight against synthetic substances, said minister Meka Whaitiri of the customs.
More than 600 different substances were used to make the drug, and Customs intercepted a new one every week.
One step ahead of those who made synthetic drugs was difficult, she said.
Often a single molecule in a compound was modified, making it legal and enforcing legislators forever, but the working group had to find a solution to this problem, she said.
The first report of the working group had to appear in the next month.
In the meantime, more direct help was given to addicts who tried to smear the drug in the poorest suburb of Napier, Maraenui.
As RNZ was investigating, residents who are addicted to synthetic substances claim to have stopped giving up trying to quit because access to help is too difficult.
Click here to view the full report Maraenui: the suburb swallowed by synthetic substances & # 39; to read.
Hawke's Bay District Health Chief Medical Officer John Gommans said the DHB would do research into setting up an outreach clinic for addicts in Maraenui – but only if the community wanted it.
The community would first be consulted about what help it needed, and the DHB would determine what could be provided, Dr. Gommans said.
One of the volunteers who led a free walk-in clinic in the suburb last year, Tracey Benson, described the DHB's response as "fantastic".
"We certainly need one, I am firmly convinced that the opposite of addiction is a connection, if these people have to go somewhere to talk about what's going on for them and know there's support there, really help. "
By Anusha Bradley rnz.co.nz