Family’s anger at ‘zombie’ drugs
Anguished drugs campaigner tells Tony Wall and Helen King how Kiwis are dicing with death by smoking synthetic cannabis.
THE last time Stephanie Harawira saw her son alive, he was off to smoke synthetic cannabis. She was in central Henderson, West Auckland on June 13 when she spotted her son, Kahu James Harawira, who’d been living rough, and another man she knew, Robert Marriner, a known synthetics dealer, meeting in the street. ‘‘I challenged them about smoking that rubbish ... Robert just stood there and justified it - ‘oh no Steph, it’s alright’. ‘‘They weren’t getting it – all they knew is they were going off to get wasted. Within 24 hours my boy was dead.’’ Kahu Harawira, whose father, Tai, is politician Hone Harawira’s brother, died just a few days past his 29th birthday. The interim cause of death has been given as heart failure; coroner’s inquiries are continuing. His family believe synthetics killed him. Hone Harawira, who as leader of the Mana party has taken a hard line on drugs, says Kahu’s death had ‘‘torn my brother’s family apart, it’s a massive hole in the fabric of our family, and someone needs to be held accountable’’.
Manufacturers and suppliers of synthetic cannabis and methamphetamine ‘‘need to be put up against a wall and shot’’.
Harawira is one of at least 20 people to have died smoking synthetic cannabis – known on the street as ‘‘synnies’’ – and there are calls for a nationwide taskforce to tackle the problem.
Families of the victims want the Government to put more money into treatment services because there is nowhere for users to go to get the specialist help they need.
Our inquiries have found that the synthetics now appearing on the streets of New Zealand are the world’s strongest. The culprit is a chemical called AMB-Fubinaca, which caused an infamous ‘‘zombie’’ outbreak in New York last year.