I imagine this may prove controversial for some, but I think it might actually a smart call by the police to can their cannabis surveillance flights.
These are the flights where the police and the defence force get into planes and choppers and go looking for cannabis crops.
These flights have been running over summer for the last 20 years, but we’ve now learned police bosses have decided to quietly shelve them, without telling the Police Minister. That part is not so smart.
To the actual issue though: as I say this will probably be a bit controversial simply because headlines suggesting police are going soft on crime are never popular.
But actually if you look a little deeper the decision makes sense.
These flights cost $700K a year. They are cost- and labour-intensive. That is money and time that could be better directed at fighting more harmful drugs, like P, which police say is exactly what they’re going to do.
P is a bigger problem in this country than weed is, and if there is only so much resource to go around, and that is a fact for any organisation including the cops, then surely we would rather they tackle the P-peddlers than the weed growers.
P is ravaging communities in a way we have arguably never seen a drug do before. It’s been described as killing this country’s regions, and it seems to be becoming more accessible. In 2019, police and customs intercepted 1.8 tonnes at the border, which is three times as much as the year before.
This is not to say police are now ignoring weed crops. They say they will still do targeted flights if they have a tip off to follow. They’re just not taking to the sky for hours at a time looking for it themselves.
Now, I’m not going to pretend that this isn’t part of a softening attitude towards cannabis. If you get the feeling that police are taking less interest in pursuing cannabis crime, I think you’d be about right.
There is a clear shift in the approach from the police to use more discretion in this area. And it seems to be in line with a softening attitude among kiwis towards cannabis, which we saw illustrated by last year’s cannabis referendum being split virtually down the middle.
You might not feel comfortable with that. Fair enough. But as for the cannabis flights themselves, ask yourself if that is time and money well spent by police when they could be cracking down on P?