You are here
Home > News > New Zealand Police Reboot Illegal Cannabis Operation Search After Year of Inactivity

New Zealand Police Reboot Illegal Cannabis Operation Search After Year of Inactivity

New Zealand Police National Headquarters just brought back their cannabis eradication programme, which had been cancelled in January 2021. According to department was paying more than $700,000. annually for the helicopters and planes. This program has been in operation for about 20 years. This effort was funded once more by the department, who recently put aside $635,000. The program began in January 2022. Flight vehicles are used to search for large-scale illegal grows.

An initial briefing detailing the Police Department’s decision was published in December 2021. It was then only that it was released recently. Official Information Act of New Zealand. All information had been withheld up to now until it was approved by the police minister. The briefing states that even though the program was stopped in 12 districts last year it still had funding.

Six of 12 districts have now opted into Operation Emerald after the program was revived. “Running a nationally coordinated operation provides efficiencies in terms of negotiating a fixed-wing plane and helicopter contracts, deploying staff, provision of training for staff, and administration of the budget,” the briefing states.

One incident reported involved just three marijuana plants and not a large-scale cultivation operation. In early February, a police helicopter flew over one couple’s property to remove three cannabis plants. “It got closer and closer and then just zoomed in on this little hill about 80 metres from our house and sprayed three small cannabis plants that were in pots up on the hills,” the individual said. “We could see the pilot, he could see us, we waved to them, and he was just sitting there above the hills spraying the plants and then just buggered off.” The individual noted that he had recently received an operation to remove cancer, and invested in a $150 cannabis oil bottle to treat the pain, instead of the tramadol and codeine he was prescribed. He also has an autoimmune condition, so medical cannabis can help his wife sleep. He and his partner decided that it was easier and cheaper to cultivate their own marijuana plants for medicinal purposes.

“The spraying of our plants seems like overkill, we would’ve been happy if someone had knocked on our door and said ‘hey we’ve had a complaint’ or something … we would’ve destroyed them if they asked us to,” he continued. “We’re just a mother and father … good community jobs, we work in the community, we help the community with sports, we’re both in community groups and are working for non-profit organizations. We don’t understand why we got targeted in a distressing manner.”

Chlöe Swarbrick, a Green Party MP and previous advocate of cannabis legalization, criticized how the plant eradication was handled. “This situation underlines yet again how these police chopper operations are not only a waste of time and money but literally cutting off some people’s medicinal cannabis supplies,” she said. “New Zealanders going about their business harming nobody have had a police chopper drop into their family dinner simply because parliament continues to prefer and enable people to get legally fully blackout drunk with all the social harms that come with that instead of moderately using an evidentially less-harmful substance that 80 percent of us will already have used by the time that we’re out of our teens.”

Operation Emerald’s main focus is on large-scale New Zealand grow operations. However, a spokesperson said that smaller plants and cultivators are often targeted. “However, as this work is often conducted in remote or rural areas, and from the air, smaller cannabis plots can naturally be sprayed during the discovery phase of flying operations,” the spokesperson said.