Getting hold of cannabis just got a bit harder in New Zealand after police seized a mammoth $140million worth of cannabis in the last year.
Figures released under the Official Information Act show police netted 7,011kg of cannabis and seized 159,898 plants nationwide in the 12 months to March 31.
Selling at $20 a gram, that's a street value of $140.2million.
The haul has led to a reduction in supply. Smokers say consistent police targeting has spooked sellers and resulted in people paying up to triple the price.
"People don't want to sell it for fear of getting caught," said one Hamilton man, who did not wish to be named.
"It's not particularly a lack of supply, but growers and sellers think police are only targeting them and they are scared to sell."
He knew of sellers netting up to $900 an ounce in the Auckland market.
An ounce typically went for between $200 and $500, police said.
"It might be a lack of knowledge among rich kids - around the Waikato people just won't pay that, you're still paying $20."
But for that $20, he said, you were likely to get a lot less than a typical gram in a tinny.
"You might be getting 25 per cent - considering harvest was a couple of months ago."
Detective Inspector Paul Berry, of the National Criminal Investigations Group, said all year round indoor growing operations were supplying the mainstream user market.
"The significant amounts of cannabis seized by police have a reasonable effect on growers and suppliers. It may also have sporadic impacts on some local communities."
But, he said, "the price for cannabis tinnies has remained steady at $20 each for many decades."
A six month sting by police codenamed "Operation Dee" resulted in the seizure and destruction of more than 130,000 cannabis plants and 92kg of dried cannabis nationwide.
It was the second largest cannabis haul by police in the last nine years.
Police arrested 573 people in the six month operation and conducted 720 searches.
Helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft, with help from the Royal New Zealand Air Force, were used to spot and destroy cannabis crops during the cannabis growing season, police said.
Police also restrained more than $4 million worth of assets purchased through the proceeds of drugs and reduced socio-economic harm by $500million.
Most of the plants found during the operation were in Northland - a hot spot for cannabis growers due to it remoteness and ideal weather conditions.
Police seized 68,499 plants in the upper north, which were all sprayed and destroyed.
An additional 13kgs of cannabis was also located.
"The operations was considered another success for the community. The destruction of so much cannabis, recovering stolen cars and property and removing firearms from the hands of criminals can only be good," said Berry.
Outside the operation, police seized the largest number of cannabis plants - 5106 - in the Bay of Plenty last year and amassed 1241kg in cannabis from the region.
The second largest seizure was from the central region where 3683 plants, totalling 879kg of cannabis was seized.
This was followed by the Waikato where police located 3480 plants in the last 12 months, and got 823kg of product off the street.
Over the last year police undertook a total of 5186 search warrants and seizures in relation to cannabis.
Berry said police were putting considerable resources into disrupting the drug trade.
"The Government has approved police, Customs and Ministry of Health to use money from criminals to develop health initiatives to reduce the number of users and the long-term health effects of drug use, as well as for targeted drug enforcement. The result of this work has seen significant seizures and police activity."
Cannabis was selling on the street for $20-$30 a gram, or $3000-$4800 a pound.
Berry said cannabis was linked to the methamphetamine trade and it was more common for drug houses to sell both types of drugs at one place.
"It is not an uncommon occurrence to locate stolen property or firearms in the possession of those persons selling drugs. These are commodities which are traded and sold for money. The is also a clear relationship between those selling cannabis and meth."
And users agreed.
"That's [methamphetamine sales] really picked up lately."
- Sunday Star Times