New Zealand police relaunch cannabis eradication program

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New Zealand police have budgeted more than $600,000 for a nationwide cannabis eradication programme, a year after the operation was called off. Officials had quietly ended the practice in January 2021, saying the leaders of the country’s 12 police districts no longer supported the program.

According to a briefing given to Stuff, six police districts are involved in reviving the eradication operation. The other six districts have indicated that they will continue to manage local cannabis eradication as needed and are not participating in the nationally coordinated effort.

The action, dubbed Operation Emerald, began in January and will continue until next month.

The original operating budget for the eradication program was $575,000 and was to come from core police funding. The budget has since risen to $635,000 due to rising costs, a police spokesperson said.

Green Party MP Chlöe Swarbrick, who campaigns for the legalization of cannabis in New Zealand, said the only “successful seizure” lawmakers heard of under the scheme involved three plants grown by a couple in Coromandel.

The owner had explained that the police flew a helicopter over their property and seized their plants while they were having dinner. The person said that “money budgeted by the police for the eradication program would have been better spent on criminals who cause real harm… [plutôt que] medical growers and very small growers of one or two plants that cause little or no damage”.

The program has existed since the 1980s. If it had been stopped for lack of enthusiasm and success, its budget had not been reallocated and therefore remained free, which motivated its return.

“His failure runs so deep that even Prohibition cheerleaders can’t see the irony in their argument that cannabis is now much stronger than it ever was – precisely because of these actions, which continue to drive cannabis production and consumption underground, into unregulated spaces,” said Chlöe Swarbrick.

In 2020, New Zealanders rejected a cannabis referendum 53% to 46%.

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