The operation would see police team up with the New Zealand Defence Force to identify cannabis plants from the skies and then destroy them. Thousands of plants were slashed down every year and police have previously said tens of millions of dollars had been "saved in social harm costs".
However, in a statement on Wednesday morning, police confirmed the operation had been axed.
"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arising from other drugs, particularly methamphetamine, a one-size-fits-all annual aerial national cannabis operation no longer represents the most appropriate deployment of Police resources," a spokesperson said.
Police said the illicit supply of cannabis remained a focus and that "funding is still available to districts that wish to prioritise the use of tactical support for the detection of cannabis plantations".
"The decision to spread resources throughout the year, and increase surveillance focus on the drugs causing the greatest harm in the community, does not mean that police across the country will not investigate and prosecute people engaged in the commercial cultivation of cannabis".
According to Stuff, Police Minister Poto Williams wasn't aware of the change when contacted by the media outlet on Tuesday.
"While this is an operational matter, I have asked for a full briefing as to the rationale behind this decision."
National's police spokesperson Simeon Brown said that while methamphetamine was an issue, "so is cannabis use". He wants an explanation for what he calls a "major decision".
"New Zealanders voted to reject the legalisation of cannabis. It’s an illegal drug and it causes significant harm in our communities.
"There is still a lot of organised crime involved in manufacturing and selling cannabis."
Police said they have a range of tactical options to target the production, manufacture and distribution of illicit drugs.
"These tactics include intelligence gathering through a variety of methods including aerial searches, using informant information, general policing and public tip-offs.
"Districts make these operational decisions based on the requirements specific to each area, working with the National Organised Crime Group throughout the year to target the manufacturers and distributors of methamphetamine, synthetics and cannabis as these drugs are all known drivers of crime and revenue streams for organised crime groups."
The US House of Representatives has passed a bill to decriminalise cannabis at the national level for the first time.
It calls for removing cannabis from the list of federally controlled substances and erasing certain federal convictions.
It also supports reinvestment in communities adversely impacted by the decades-long "war on drugs".
The bill is very unlikely to be taken up in the Republican-controlled Senate.
The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (More) Act was passed in the lower chamber 228 to 164 on Friday afternoon, with five Republicans - and one independent - supporting the measure.
To become law, the bill needs to pass the Senate and be signed by the president. If that happens, it could help bridge a major disconnect between national and state drug policy in the US.
Why is cannabis not legal federally?
Cannabis is still prohibited by the 1970 federal drug policy known as the Controlled Substances Act and classed as a Schedule I narcotic - defined as having no medical value and a high potential for abuse - but states have made their own laws relating to the drug.
One in three Americans currently live in states where cannabis is legal for adult use, despite the federal prohibition.
Fifteen states and the District of Columbia have passed ballot measures or initiatives that allow the recreational use of cannabis by anyone over the age of 21.
In addition, 38 states have passed measures that allow its use for medicinal purposes.
Last month, voters in three states - Arizona, Montana and New Jersey - overwhelmingly approved ballot measures to legalise recreational use, with voters in Mississippi supporting its medicinal use. South Dakota, a traditionally conservative state, made history when voters there simultaneously backed initiatives for the medicinal and recreational use of the plant.
Support for federal cannabis legalisation is now at an all-time high, with a Gallup poll last month showing more than two-thirds of American adults support it.
Several lawmakers took to the House floor ahead of the vote, arguing the bill had less to do with legalising cannabis and more to do with how the enforcement of cannabis prohibition has hurt communities of colour, leaving behind "a legacy of racial and ethnic injustices".
Black Americans are more than three times as likely to be arrested for cannabis-related offences as white Americans, despite similar rates of usage, according to a study last year from the American Civil Liberties Union.
What does the bill propose?
It includes measures to expunge the federal criminal records of those charged or convicted for non-violent cannabis offenses and provide cannabis business owners easier access to grants or loans. It would also tax cannabis retail sales and create a trust fund to reinvest in job training and other initiatives for communities of colour harmed by the drug war.
"We're not rushing to legalise marijuana. The American people have already done that," said Democrat Earl Blumenauer, from Oregon, who is the founder of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus and an original sponsor of the bill.
"We're here because Congress has failed to deal with the disastrous war on drugs and do its part for the over 50 million regular marijuana users in every one of your districts."
The bill was drafted in co-ordination with several cannabis justice advocates.
What reaction has there been?
Several Republican lawmakers said the bill had troubling implications that could be potentially harmful to American youth. Greg Murphy, from North Carolina, said the drug was "one of the most abused substances on the planet".
Others called the vote a "waste of time", complaining that they should have instead focused on Covid relief.
Cannabis reform advocates, however, hailed the vote as "historic" and "long overdue".
It came as the National Basketball Association (NBA) released a statement announcing it would suspend random cannabis testing of its players for the 2020-21 season.
President-elect Joe Biden has expressed a desire to end federal prohibition through decriminalisation, but neither Senate Republican leadership nor current president Donald Trump have indicated support for the legislation to become law. If Republicans win one or both Senate runoff elections in Georgia next month, the party will retain its majority in the upper chamber.
Following the passage of the House bill, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer urged his colleagues to support the reforms: "These bills are part of a broader movement to address inequities in criminal justice, business and more. Today's bipartisan vote shows just how far that movement has come."
Adding a rare voice of support from across the aisle, Matt Gaetz of Florida - the lone Republican co-sponsor of the bill - said: "The federal government has lied to the people of this country about marijuana for a generation... If we were measuring the success of the war on drugs, drugs have won."
The Electoral Commission is adjusting its plans to deliver the 2020 General Election and referendums on Saturday 17 October.
The Prime Minister has announced today that election day has been moved from 19 September to 17 October 2020.
“Confirmation of the date provides certainty to the public about when the election will be held,” says Alicia Wright, Chief Electoral Officer. “We have been considering alternative election dates and are confident we can revise our existing arrangements for 17 October.”
Alicia Wright says the Commission’s next steps will be to confirm voting places and contact more than 25,000 people who have put up their hands to work at the election.
“These are challenging times for everyone, but we will have measures in place so that people can vote in person at a voting place this October.”
The Electoral Commission has always planned to run the election as if New Zealand is at Alert Level 2. Health measures that will be in place include contact tracing, hand sanitiser and physical distancing in voting places, and providing protective gear for staff if needed. Planning is also underway to have more voting places and longer voting times to reduce queues.
Voting services can be delivered to small clusters of voters under higher local Alert Levels through takeaway voting where voting papers are delivered and picked up.
Other ways of voting are available for people who cannot go to a voting place, for example for reasons of illness or disability. People can apply for postal voting by calling 0800 36 76 56.
New election timetable:
Survey results released today by the Helen Clark Foundation and the NZ Drug Foundation show that support for cannabis legalisation grows when people know more about the proposed legislation.
When respondents were asked how they would vote in September's referendum based on what they already know, the result was neck and neck – 46 percent said they would vote for the legalisation of cannabis, 44 percent said they would vote against it, and 10 percent were undecided.
When people were then told more about the limits and restrictions on cannabis use and sale in the proposed legislation, support for legalisation increased to 50 percent, opposition decreased to 42 percent, and 8 percent were undecided.
“These results suggest New Zealanders are likely to support a sensible approach to cannabis harm reduction when they have accurate information about what is being proposed,” said Holly Walker, Deputy Director of the Helen Clark Foundation.
“The details matter. Armed with the facts, voters see that putting in place rules and enforcing these is better than the status quo.”
New Zealand Drug Foundation saw similar results in research commissioned in November last year. “When initially asked how they would vote, participants were evenly split, with around 14 percent undecided. Once the participants were given more information on the legislation, we saw stronger support for a yes vote,” said Ross Bell, Executive Director, NZ Drug Foundation.
Over the last two months the proportion of undecided voters has dropped, following the release of the draft Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill in December.
The draft legislation includes an age limit of 20, redistribution of tax into harm reduction, health and education programmes, a ban on all marketing and advertising of cannabis products, strict controls on the potency of cannabis, and other restrictions.
“When people learn about these proposed restrictions, they are more likely to support a law change,” said Ms Walker.
“Legalising, regulating, and taxing cannabis use makes sense to a lot of people. They know that the status quo isn't working. People can see that New Zealand would not be going out on a limb as more countries have already moved or are moving in this direction.”
“Over the last three months we have been approached by many New Zealanders saying this issue is worthy of their attention and they want more information,” said Ross Bell.
“Not everyone knows the basics. We have had people ask us if they have to be enrolled to participate in the referendum. This issue is relevant to every New Zealander and they want to talk and have their say on this. I would say that it's not enough to rely on poll after poll to have this discussion,” said Bell.
“There is evidence from other jurisdictions that if we are going to have this conversation people need good, accurate information. We have an opportunity to vote on a solution that is focused on positive public health outcomes and harm minimisation, so let's do it right,” said Bell.
About the survey
The survey questions were commissioned by the Helen Clark Foundation and included in UMR’s most recent nation-wide omnibus survey, an online survey of a nationally representative sample of 1000 New Zealanders 18 years of age and over.
Fieldwork for the survey was conducted between 22 January and 3 February 2020. The maximum sampling error for a sample size of 1000 at the 95% confidence level is ± 3.1%.
Respondents were first asked “As you may be aware, later this year there will be a referendum alongside the general election to see if New Zealanders want to legalise cannabis. Based on what you already know, will you ... Vote for legalisation of cannabis/ Vote against legalisation of cannabis/ Unsure”
Following this, respondents were given the following additional information about the referendum:
The Government has recently released the draft Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill.
The draft includes:
They were then asked how they would vote in the referendum again.
- Helen Clark Foundation
Less than three months out from the General Election, an independent survey of nearly 1,600 Kiwis shows 56% will vote for legalising the personal use of cannabis at the referendum – up from 54% in February.
43% will vote against reform, down from 45%.
Horizon Research conducted the survey between June 10 and 14, 2020. It is the sixth in a series of comprehensive surveys tracking nationwide opinion on cannabis law reform. The research is commissioned by New Zealand’s largest medicinal cannabis company, Helius Therapeutics.
Higher support among women:
The June survey also reveals women favour legalisation more than men. Since February support for legalisation among women has risen 4% to 59%, with 52% of men set to vote yes.
Majority support across all but othose aged 65+:
Legalising the personal use of cannabis achieves majority support among all Kiwis deemed young adults or middle-aged - 18 to 64-year-olds.
Senior New Zealanders are the only group opposed, but support among older demographics has been steadily increasing throughout Horizon’s series of tracking surveys.
Support among those aged 65 to 74 years is now at 39% - up from 30% when the first survey was conducted in November 2018, while support among those aged 75 or older is at 27%, up from 24% in February.
With support peaking at 72% among 25 to 34-year-olds, youth turn-out will be important for proponents, particularly young adults who support centre-left and liberal parties.
Majority of voters for four of five parties now saying Yes:
Notably, New Zealand First voters have now shifted to support reform. In fact, based on survey respondents’ 2017 party vote, voters for four of the five parties currently in Parliament now support legalisation, up from two in February.
53% of New Zealand First voters and 70% of ACT voters will now tick yes at the referendum – up from 46% and 45% respectively in February.
Support continues to firm up among supporters of the two main centre-left parties, with 72% of Labour voters and 81% of Green voters intending to vote in favour of cannabis legalisation – up from 64% and 78% respectively.
Only National voters remain opposed, although nearly one-third say they will vote yes. Among National voters, support is now at 31% – up from 27% in February.
With overall support now at 56%, the large public survey has tracked support steadily returning for personal-use cannabis legalisation, after it bottomed out 10 months ago.
Support was first recorded at 60% in November 2018. Then last year support was at 52% in April; 39% in August; 48% in November; and 54% in February 2020.
To better emulate the choice voters will have when they vote at the upcoming referendum, the two latest surveys removed the previous ‘no opinion’ option, forcing a yes or no response. This equally lifted both support and opposition to reform.
Cannabis prohibition - not working to reduce access and use:
For the second time in the series, two questions were asked about whether prohibition is working to limit the availability and use of cannabis, and whether controls over growing and selling cannabis would deliver a better outcome for society. The latest results show New Zealanders’ strong views on both issues have barely changed since February.
Researchers asked if the prohibition of cannabis was limiting access and use, only 17% said it was. A staggering 81% said cannabis is available and used by many New Zealanders, and 2% gave no response.
On whether respondents believed controls over growing and selling cannabis for personal use would deliver a better outcome for society, 71% said yes, 27% supported continuing with no controls, and 3% gave no response.
Helius Pharmaceuticals Chief Executive Paul Manning says:
“This result will energise both the yes and no camps. It shows just how close the vote will be, with 81% of Kiwis also declaring that prohibition has failed to limit cannabis access and use. The opportunity for wider reform is something all New Zealanders must start thinking about,” says Paul Manning, Chief Executive of Helius Therapeutics.
“This is a polarising debate but despite prohibition, cannabis is already widely accessible in New Zealand. September’s referendum is fundamentally a decision about who we want to control cannabis. Government-led control would weaken the stranglehold gangs have on our communities. Reform transfers cannabis access to a regulated, locally-owned businesses, delivering jobs and tax revenue, while ushering in quality standards and strict access controls,” says Mr Manning.
“New Zealanders have less than three months to decide who they want to ultimately control the cannabis market. There are only two choices: Gangs or government.
“Today, hundreds of thousands of Kiwis are accessing cannabis illicitly. Wrestling regulatory control away from the black market would bring about product quality, safer communities, job opportunities, and significant tax revenue for healthcare,” says Paul Manning.
Client and methodology:
Commissioned by Helius Therapeutics and carried out independently by Horizon Research, the results are from a nationwide online survey of 1,593 adults representing the 18+ population at the 2018 census, conducted between 10 and 14 June 2020.
Respondents were members of Horizon’s HorizonPoll panel and a third party representative nationwide research panel, both of which represent the New Zealand adult population at the 2018 Census. Results are weighted by age, gender, highest education, personal income, employment status and party voted for at the 2017 general election. At a 95% confidence level, the maximum margin of error is ±2.5%.
Helius and Horizon’s tracking of public opinion on the referendum over the past 20 months makes it the most significant series of surveys on the issue.
Key results summary:
Question: At this time, do you think you will vote for or against legalising cannabis for personal use in New Zealand?
Party Vote 2017:
Question: Currently, producing cannabis for personal or non-prescription use is prohibited in New Zealand, with the intention of limiting its availability and use. Do you think prohibition of cannabis is working in New Zealand society?
Question: Currently, growing cannabis for personal use is prohibited in New Zealand. Which one of the following options do you think will have a better outcome for New Zealand society?
27% - Continuing with no controls over growing and selling personal use.
71% - Controls over growing and selling personal use.
3% - No response given.
An operation producing cannabis-infused gummy lollies, chocolates and baked goods in Waikato has been busted by police.
The seizure of the lollies and goods such as muffins, cookies and brownies infused with the Class B drug was part of Operation Casper - an investigation into the production and distribution of cannabis edibles sold online, police said in a statement on Wednesday.
The products were being marketed and sold online via Instagram and Facebook and through a website using the alias 'Dolly's Edibles', Detective Inspector Graham Pitkethley said.
A search warrant on Friday, June 5, uncovered a large quantity of cannabis infused butter and a significant quantity of cannabis infused products including gummy and jelly lollies, moulded chocolates, muffins, cookies and brownies.
A 27-year-old woman appeared in the Hamilton District court on Tuesday charged with a number of drug offences relating to the production, supply and distribution of these products. She was remanded to reappear on June 24.
"The method of selling via social media platforms allows people of all ages, including children and young people, to easily purchase and obtain these products," Pitkethley said.
"Many of these baked goods and gummy or jelly lollies have the appearance of normal baked products and confectionery.
"It's important for our communities to recognise the forms these products can take and how they are distributed to help us lessen the risk of children consuming them.
"It's equally important for parents and caregivers to be aware that young people are able to purchase these products via a range of social media platforms."
The psychoactive effects from eating cannabis products will be widely variable depending on the individual, he said. There is the potential for people, whether they are familiar with cannabis or not, to eat too much, with extreme results.
It would also be extremely frightening to a person eating these products unknowingly.
"While education is a priority for us, we also remind people that cannabis oil is a Class B controlled illicit drug and it is an offence to purchase or attempt to purchase these products."
Anyone affected by drug addiction is urged to seek help through the Alcohol and Drug Helpline on 0800 787 797, or free text 1737 to speak with a trained counsellor.