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.

Sunday News - - NEWS -

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.

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