Police are targeting northern rivers cannabis growers despite warnings that sick and dying people across the country will miss out on their ‘medicine’.
Users of medicinal cannabis have told Echonetdaily that it is a constant struggle to source good quality ‘bush’ cannabis to produce the tinctures used to treat conditions ranging from epilepsy to chronic pain.
Police announced today that they have seized cannabis with an estimated potential street value of $5 million during the latest round of raids.
Detectives from the drug squad were joined by local police and Polair this week.
Areas targeted included bushland near The Channon, Nimbin, Broken Head, Tuntable Falls, Lennox Head, Ballina, Suffolk Park, Teven, Whian Whian, Terania Creek, Fernleigh and Wardell.
Police said more than 2,500 cannabis plants, many of which were more than a metre tall, were seized by police and would be destroyed today.
‘Three people were stopped and spoken to by police and will be issued court attendance notices for the offence of cultivate prohibited plant,’ police said.
‘Inquiries into those responsible for a number of other crop sites are continuing.
Echonetdaily understands that up to 200 plants were seized from a property on Broken Head yesterday (Thursday, February 12).
Meanwhile, police have also been busy drug-testing drivers as part of Operation Saturation.
The drug bus has been stationed in Lismore, Casino and outside Nimbin in the past week, with 11 people detected in Lismore. Results are not yet available for the other centres.
Nimbin Hemp Embassy president Michael Balderstone said police were out of touch with public opinion on the issue of cannabis use, especially for medicinal purposes.
‘Raiding hippy communities for personal use cannabis is a waste of everyone’s money and time,’ Mr Balderstone said.
‘And with all the publicity that medicinal cannabis has received in recent times, more and more people are coming to Nimbin looking for medicine.
‘Ninety per cent of weed is grown hydroponically by organized crime in warehouses yet they continue to target small growers here on the north coast.
‘They (the police helicopter) were hanging over Tuntable Falls school the other day and they have been trashing people’s gardens to rip out plants.
Others have complained of having their privacy invaded and their young children woken up by the police helicopter buzzing their properties.
A Channon resident, who doesn’t use cannabis, said she walked out of her home naked and felt violated when the police helicopter suddenly appeared over the trees line.
‘I have nothing here yet they have the right to invade my property?!? WTF. I hate our government with its invasion of our human and civil rights,’ she said.
Mr Balderstone said the constant harassment of Nimbin by the Sydney-based drug squad made it very difficult for local police to have a good relationship with the community.
Medicinal cannabis advocate Tony Bower, whose company supplies children with tinctures for epilepsy, has told Echonetdaily that supplies could run out unless an amnesty against growers was considered.
Mr Baldestone agreed.
‘With the election next month all major political parties are saying they support medicinal cannabis so you would think they would have the smarts to do something better with their limited budgets,’ he said.
‘It’s quite simple. Just license some growers and then we can test their products.
‘Ice is the real drama because people who can’t get cannabis are turning to heavier drugs or synthetic cannabis products which have been shown to be harmful.’
As for the drug testing of drivers, Mr Balderstone said it was just another bullying tactic.
‘There was recently another report from America showing that unless you’ve just smoked a joint there is no evidence that your driving is impaired,’ he said.
Echonetdaily has reported Lismore magistrates Jeff Linden and David Heilpern making similar observations regarding the impairment issue.
‘I have heard that it costs $50 a test and that ex police are involved in the company that has the contract to supply these expensive tests,’ Mr Balderstone said.
Northern Rivers Hemp Association president Andrew Kavasilas told Echonetdaily that the cannabis eradication program was a 25-year-old strategy that hasn’t worked.
‘There’s no big crops being grown around here. We’re like a moonshine village because most pot is grown close to the city in warehouses,’ he said.
Mr Kavasilas said a full judicial inquiry was needed to examine the use of cannabis as medicine, coupled with an amnesty.