New Zealand police have budgeted NZ$635,000 for a national cannabis eradication operation, having scrapped the practice last year following a lack of interest from senior officers.

Stuff reports the program, which had run for more than 20 years and involved officers taking to the skies to find illicit back country plantations, was grounded in 2021 partly due to a lack of appetite from leaders of the country’s 12 police districts.

Green Party MP Chlöe Swarbrick

Twelve months later, six police districts have opted to be part of a new, nationally coordinated operation specifically targeting commercial cannabis growers, according to a December 14 briefing to police minister Poto Williams which Stuff accessed under the Official Information Act.

Dubbed Operation Emerald, the national program was due to run from January to March, although police would not confirm dates until it was completed and reviewed by the police minister.

The other six districts will continue to manage cannabis eradication locally, as required.

Green Party MP Chlöe Swarbrick questioned why there was “an empty chequebook” for an operation that had failed to eradicate cannabis since its inception in the 1980s.

She added: “Its failure is so profound that even cheerleaders of prohibition can’t see the irony in their argument that cannabis is now far stronger than it ever used to be – precisely because of these actions, which continue to push cannabis production and consumption underground into unregulated spaces.”

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