Millions of dollars from taxpayers are sinking into aerial spraying operations targeting illicit cannabis crops.
But critics say the costly practice is a waste of police time and has little impact on the selling price of the drug, so they want more funds to be channeled into drug treatment programs.
Material supplied a Waikato time under the Official Information Act reveals that $ 2,653,878 has been spent on aerial spraying nationwide over the past five years.
Police are defending his work, saying it is aimed at large-scale operations that cause considerable community harm and is only part of his work on drugs.
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Green MP Chloe Swarbrick, who advocated for the legalization of cannabis, said the use of aerial spraying of cannabis plants was the baseline used by police to enforce the law.
“But obviously we have an incredibly ineffective law when that amount of money is spent continuously each year and has no effect on the supply on the streets.”
Police are effectively chasing his tail and not long ago to cancel the supply, Swarbrick said.
I would rather focus more on substances like the Class A drug. Last week, a joint operation between police and customs resulted in the removal of 435 grams of methamphetamine, about $ 455,000 in cash and related items from the streets. the clan’s lab.
Swarbrick argued in support of programs such as Te Ara Oranga, run jointly by Northland police and the Northland District Health Board with the goal of reducing methamphetamine demand.
During this program, offenders, witnesses, and crime victims were examined to see if they were using methamphetamine and were referred to health-based treatment if they needed to.
Spraying costs up to $ 1 million a year, Swarbrick said. There was one exception in 2020/21 when police reduced the operation and spent $ 10,564.
New Zealand Drug Foundation Executive Director Sarah Helm said it was a total waste of time and police resources to continue cannabis air spray operations.
“Nearly half of the country voted in favor of full legalization of cannabis in the 2020 referendum.
“Last year’s Helen Clark Foundation survey found that 69 per cent of New Zealand respondents supported the full legalization or decriminalization of cannabis.”
Helm said the status quo makes it difficult for New Zealanders to access medical cannabis.
“Our 2022 nation-state report showed that it is estimated that 94% of those who use cannabis for medicinal purposes, 266,700 people, still access the drug through the black market.”
The New Zealand Drug Foundation has long called for more funding for effective health-based approaches to medicines, rather than pursuing failed policies.
“We have recently estimated that the government currently spends more than four times more on drug law enforcement than on treatment and other health-based approaches.”
Helm said that while cannabis certainly causes harm to some members of the community, there is a much better use of police time and resources than ineffective air spray operations.
Daniel Lyons, a senior detective sergeant at the National Organized Crime Group, said the air operations were not for personal use or low-level offenses, but for large-scale, for-profit operations that cause harm. considerable to the community.
However, in February a Coromandel couple was having dinner when police flew a helicopter over their property to spray three cannabis plants.
The couple had been consuming cannabis for medical reasons. They said they did not sell cannabis, but gave it away to “big relatives.”
Lyons said police spray cannabis plants during the summer months, finding them through intelligence, community-provided information and aerial reconnaissance.
It is part of the ongoing police work to reduce the impact of drugs and organized crime, he said.
“It is important that we continue to put pressure on those who benefit from illicit drug dealing.
“These operations also involve field search warrants that uncover illegal firearms. We know there is a link between illicit firearms and drug trafficking,” Lyons said.
He added that police would continue to focus on the most harmful distributors of cannabis and drugs, such as methamphetamine and synthetics.
But there has been a shift in public opinion since the cannabis referendum, said Massey University associate professor Chris Wilkins.
People seem to understand that it is a useful drug, he said, and in most cases it does not lead to the use of more serious drugs.
“Cannabis use is not a determinant of people continuing to use heroin,” said Wilkins of Massey’s College of Health’s SHORE & Whariki Research Center.
“Spraying does not always affect producers and, in fact, the eradication operation can help them, because if they take away the supply they can raise the price due to higher demand.”
However, prices have been fairly steady over the past two years, he said.