Police send message with ongoing cannabis hunt


Sunday was an stunningly hot day out on West Auckland’s famous black sand beaches. But as families in Piha, Kare Kare and Huia enjoyed the last day before school started for the year, local police had another idea in mind: to remind everyone that cannabis is not legal. Yet.

Police loaded up an expensive high-end military helicopter, hired a fixed wing spotter plane, and sent multiple ground crews in support.

They affixed a high resolution camera onto a boom suspended below the helicopter. They filled drums with poison, ready to spray on any cannabis plants they came across. They noted the locations of any properties of interest.

They did this knowing every dollar spent on eradication is totted up as a harm from cannabis, and with a bizarre circular logic the more they spend on eradication, they more harm they are officially saving.

They did this knowing they can snoop in everyone’s back yard from the air, but could not legally do the same from the street, and they are exempt from the usual CAA rules, such as sticking to safe flying levels.

They did this knowing they wouldn’t otherwise get to experience flying in a military helicopter. It’s probably jolly good fun.

They did this knowing there is a rahui on the ranges relating to Kauri dieback disease and their actions may compromise it.

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They did this knowing some of the cannabis sprayed with their poison would still end up being sold illicitly, while spray drift may end up in waterways or poison nearby native bush.

They did this knowing there are no big commercial grows in the Waitakere bush or near the beach towns. That sort of thing was driven indoors years ago, into converted warehouses in the city.

They did this knowing most smaller growers are doing it for themselves, and chances are they are using it medicinally.

They did this a few weeks after medicinal cannabis was made legal, with a statutory defence for patients undergoing palliation to legally obtain cannabis.

They did this soon after the Government announced it will amend the Misuse of Drugs Act to guide Police away from prosecution.

They did this while publicly stating they don’t go around looking for cannabis (and in fact, overall cannabis arrests are down significantly).

They did this as New Zealand is beginning to discuss the cannabis referendum to be held at the general election next year.

They did this as polls show most New Zealanders do not support the current approach and would prefer to have cannabis treated as a health issue, not a crime.

They did this on a Sunday afternoon, knowing full well who would see it: middle NZ families out at the beach.

Police clearly wanted to send a message: Cannabis is still illegal. This was part of a P.R. campaign.

But rather than engender support through Sunday’s snooping and spraying, Police may have provided plenty of fertiliser to grow the campaign to #MakeItLegal.

Sending in the choppers, which will be repeated all over New Zealand this summer, is completely out of touch with public sentiment.

Local politicians who are up for re-election later this year will have noted the reaction from their constituents.

Judging from the response on social media, it was as appealing as an 80’s mustache with all the persuasive skills of a phonebook.

It doesn’t represent modern policing in contemporary New Zealand. Most officers have already made cannabis a lower priority for enforcement, and good on them.

Next year New Zealand will vote to make cannabis legal. For a proper debate to be held it is important that those who most affected are not considered criminals and hunted with the full force of the state. Police should immediately call off their aerial snooping and spraying programme.

Chris Fowlie is the CEO of Zeacann Limited, a medicinal cannabis producer; co-founder of the New Zealand Medical Cannabis Council; president of the National Organisation for the Reform of Marijuana Laws NZ Inc; co-founder of The Hempstore Aotearoa; co-host of Marijuana Media on 95bFM; and court-recognised expert witness for cannabis.


  1. “They did this knowing some of the cannabis sprayed with their poison would still end up being sold illicitly, while spray drift may end up in waterways or poison nearby native bush.”

    Where are the anti-1080 brigade on this one? Oh yeah, thats right, it doesnt threaten their precious hunting prey. So its ok then.

  2. As they say in the Murder Mountain doco currently screening on Netflix ” i grew up running from the blades” Kids up here in Cannabis County ( nz’s Far North) know all too well the effect the choppers have on the dinner table and you’re looking at 3 generations who’ve been subject to this harassment. People can grow on your property without your permission or awareness and the pigs will still raid your abode whether you are present or not. My kids know what it’s like to have choppers overhead as you try to have a birthday party on the lawn to be woken by snooping planes and pigs without a warrant. Nothing will stop NZ’s police from their favourite cowboy shennagins.

  3. Will it really be legal? Over the counter purchase by adults? Or ‘legal’ for pharmaceutical companies to make obsence profits selling it to the Government for use by a tiny percentage of the population who are terminally ill…

  4. Not much has changed in 40 years, except there arent 50 calibre machine guns pointed out of these gunships anymore.
    The tactics of flying metres above folks houses and animals remains.
    The wars not won yet

  5. Spotter planes are being seen all over the Bay of Plenty. Far more prevalent than any year previously. Flying low over my house they record everything they pass over in an invasion of privacy. I give no permission.
    Last year there was no flying. They seem to intent on be making up for it. How about analysing cannabis related crime in the last year. Did extra weed in the system cause any rise in crime? I would suggest it may have been reduced. If so why then is flying still being done and what does it achieve.?

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