Drought hits drug dealers in the pocket

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This year's East Coast marijuana crop is the poorest growers have had thanks to drought, say police.

Eastern Police District organised crime head, Detective Senior Sergeant Mike Foster, said an aerial police operation using a helicopter and aeroplane against growers this year had found lower numbers than usual, with many plants in very poor condition.

Eastern police executed 150 search warrants of homes and properties across the police district and seized or destroyed plants with an estimated street value of more than $4 million, despite the poor growing conditions.

The number of arrests made were also lower than normal - 119 in the district.

"We seized and destroyed 7500 plants across the Hawke's Bay, Wairoa, Gisborne and East Coast districts, with about 4000 of those plants growing around Gisborne and on the East Coast," Mr Foster said.

"Across the whole police district that's down about 4000 plants, spread pretty widely over the district.

"I feel the drought did the community a favour this year. The impact on drug production can only benefit the community."

Some minor growers were warned at the discretion of the officer-in-charge.

It is expected the drop in crop size will impact on the prices paid for marijuana this year as demand outstrips supply.

"It's going to be interesting to see over the next couple of months what information we get when it comes to prices. Cannabis could be a lot more expensive this year.

"We have information already that some people are trying to access it outside of the district, which is the first time I've ever heard that."

He said despite the drought some parts of the North Island still produced good crops.

"I believe in some places the crop was better than normal but in other districts like ours, it was the poorest crop growers have had."

He said the operation had finished "but we are still focused on targeting drugs, drug growers, drug offenders and drug suppliers".

"The public should rest assured that we will be relentless on those people right through the year, not just in the cannabis-growing season."

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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