New Zealand national law enforcement officials have scrapped their annual cannabis eradication operation, which cost taxpayers more than $700,000 per year to fund hundreds of hours of helicopter flight time, Stuff reports. The operation was ditched due to a lack of support from the country’s 12 police districts, the report says.
A police spokeswoman said the “one-size-fits-all annual aerial national cannabis operation no longer represents the most appropriate deployment of police resources” as communities face increased harm from other drugs, particularly methamphetamine.
Funding is still available to districts that want “tactical support” to find and exterminate cannabis grow sites, the report says.
NZ Drug Foundation Director Sarah Helm said the move would dedicate resources toward targeting “much more harmful substances such as methamphetamine.”
“While we pour resources into cannabis, methamphetamine is wreaking havoc on communities. We hope this changed approach represents a shift in police prioritization.” – Helm to Stuff
Police Association President Chris Cahill criticized the government for not immediately notifying departments of the change. He argued that while “police have priorities … everything has consequences and if you’re not going to do these big operations then there at least needs to be a commitment to do some district-level operations.” Cahill argued that the operations uncovered weapons and stolen property which “still needs to be addressed given the ongoing risk firearms in the hands of criminals present to New Zealanders.”
In October, New Zealand voters rejected a cannabis legalization ballot initiative by a final 50.7% to 48.4% margin.
After taking over last year, Commissioner Andrew Coster outlined other policing reforms, including advising staff not to pursue fleeing drivers unless the threat “outweighs the risk of harm by the pursuit.”
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