New Zealand police ground annual aerial cannabis hunt

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New Zealand police are putting an end to the annual practice of searching for cannabis grows using helicopters and planes, reportsStuff

The operation has reportedly been taking place for more than 20 years and costs upwards of $700,000 annually.

“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arising from other drugs, particularly methamphetamine, a one-size-fits-all annual aerial national cannabis operation no longer represents the most appropriate deployment of police resources,” a police spokesperson told Stuff.

Police Minister Poto Williams was reportedly unaware of the change until she was reached by Stuffearlier this week.

“While this is an operational matter, I have asked for a full briefing as to the rationale behind this decision,” Williams said. 

The annual operation is usually conducted with assistance from the New Zealand Defence Force and reportedly nets tens of thousands of plants. 

In October, New Zealanders chose not to legalize cannabis in a close vote. More than 48 per cent were in favour of reforming the country’s laws while 50 per cent of voters opted against it.

Advocates argued that legalization would take money out of the pockets of gangs, improve cannabis access for medical patients, and  benefit indigenous Maori.

Writing in  The Guardian, Dr. Fiona Hutton, an associate professor in the Institute of Criminology at New Zealand’s Victoria University, said voters were flooded with fear-mongering and misinformation in the lead up to the referendum.

“The results are a resounding triumph for stigma, fear-mongering and myths and a terrible blow for evidence, equity and harm reduction,” Hutton wrote. 

If it had passed, the measure would have allowed New Zealanders to purchase up to 14 grams of cannabis a day and grow two plants.

After the preliminary results were released, New Zealand Prime Minister, who was criticized by some advocates for not voicing support for the measure, revealed she had voted in favour of legalizing the plant. 

According to a United Nations  drug report, cannabis is the most widely used illicit drug in New Zealand, with the country having the ninth-highest cannabis consumption rate in the world.

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