Police dope raids net ‘$22m’
But Hemp Embassy critical of the endless drug war
A north coast police operation to ‘seize and destroy’ cannabis plants has just wrapped up for another year, with police reporting the Tweed Byron area as having the fewest number of crops discovered.
But the cost is unknown to the public; police have consistently refused to provide any operational figures and comes after a recent public meeting in Mullumbimby which highlighted the problems of a much harder drug, meth.
Both aerial and ground police ops are undertaken during the growing season from late spring to early autumn. Police say 1,469 plants were discovered in Tweed/Byron, 2,500 for Richmond, while New England was the ‘most prolific’ with a total of 4,860 plants.
And while police estimate the potential ‘street value’ at more than $22 million, critics have pointed out for many years that police regard seedlings as fully grown female flowering plants, which provides skewed statistics.
Commander of the drug squad, detective superintendent Tony Cooke, said the program will continue to be a major strategy for police to target outdoor cannabis crops.
‘It is also an invaluable tool for ongoing investigations into cannabis cultivation by the drug squad and local area commands across the state,’ Det Supt Cooke said. ‘Preventing large amounts of cannabis will have an impact on the availability of cannabis in these areas, disrupt the supply chain, and minimise the harm caused by the drug,’ he said.
But Michael Balderstone from Nimbin’s Hemp Embassy told The Echo, ‘They have driven ninety per cent of pot supply indoors to hydroponic growing, so there will be no disruption to supply. And no doubt some people will choose to use other more dangerous drugs now if their pot is gone as all illegal drugs are in the same black market.’
‘What they have taken is the outdoor organic bush medicines so sought after. Locals from communities here report two, three or four plants going at a time which is hardly commercial and in fact clearly personal.
‘It won’t stop these people using pot; they’ll just have to go to the black market if friends don’t help them. Their money figures are fantasy land trying to justify the expense of their ops and ensure they come back next year. My estimate is an average plant would yield two or three ounces – if that – when you take out the males and the mould, the thieves and the animals. And of course a huge amount is for personal consumption and never gets sold.
‘Fortunately the hippies love to share, so we look after each other on that score. I really think one of the best things we could do to deal with the popularity of ice is to re-legalise pot and let people grow a few personal plants.
‘Cannabis is very different from all the other illegal drugs in that the others are all processed and you’re not sure what you’re getting but pot is still in herbal form and you can see what you get.’