Police budgeting $580k to eradicate cannabis this season

Police are budgeting $580,000 to eradicate cannabis this season.

It comes despite the revelation they are dropping their nationally coordinated cannabis eradication operation.

Newshub filed an Official Information Request for a breakdown of police's budget for cannabis eradication and the regions it would be spent in on November 17 2020. Police responded on February 11 2021.

Detective Superintendent Greg Williams told Newshub the illicit supply of cannabis remains a focus for police.

"Funding is still available to districts that wish to prioritise the use of tactical support for the detection of cannabis plantations," he said in a written statement.

"They will continue to locate and eradicate cannabis in the course of their usual activities. No budget is specifically allocated to this."

Police destroying cannabis plants.
Police destroying cannabis plants. Photo credit: Newshub

The annual aerial cannabis operation would have seen police team up with the New Zealand Defence Force to identify cannabis plants from the skies and then destroy them. Thousands of plants were slashed down every year and police have previously said tens of millions of dollars had been "saved in social harm costs".

"With the increased harm in many communities arising from other drugs, particularly methamphetamine, a one-size-fits-all annual aerial national cannabis operation no longer represents the most appropriate deployment of police resources," Det Supt Williams told Newshub. 

"The decision to spread resources throughout the year and increase surveillance focus on the drugs causing the greatest harm in the community, does not mean that police across the country will not investigate and prosecute people engaged in the commercial cultivation of cannabis."

The decision to drop the aerial operation was controversial and reportedly came as a surprise to  Police Minister Poto Williams.

"New Zealanders voted to reject the legalisation of cannabis. It’s an illegal drug and it causes significant harm in our communities," said National's police spokesperson Simeon Brown.

"There is still a lot of organised crime involved in manufacturing and selling cannabis."