75-Year-Old New Zealand Man Arrested for Growing 250 Illegal Weed Plants

A 75-year-old man in New Zealand was recently discovered to have been growing 250 cannabis plants by local law enforcement.

The Central District Organised Crime Unit, which worked with the Royal New Zealand Air Force, received a warrant to investigate an isolated part of the Whanganui River. According to Whanganui Chronicle, the owner of the property had previously submitted an application to grow hemp in that region.

The investigation is part of an ongoing project called “Operation Emerald” that includes law enforcement targeting illegal large-scale cultivation of drugs in New Zealand. This particular location required traversing an isolated area near the small town of Raetihi and the Whanganui River, but not a destination where vehicles can be driven. Due to the remote location, the Air Force dropped officers in on March 26 to investigate.

Detective Inspector Paul Baskett told the news outlet that the targeted illegal cultivation site previously owned a license to grow hemp, but it had expired in 2021. “The team were able to establish good cause to suspect that cannabis was being grown up there in large tunnel houses,” Baskett said. 

Police found 250 cannabis plants growing in “tunnel houses,” or greenhouses, alongside a shed containing dried cannabis as well, although reports do not specify if it was only dried cannabis flower, or an assortment of dried cannabis plant material.

Currently, the unnamed 75-year-old man has been charged with illegal cannabis cultivation and was scheduled for a court hearing in the Whanganui District Court.

Operation Emerald also acted on search warrants recently in Bay of Plenty, located on the northeast side of the country. A total of 39 search warrants were conducted over the course of five days throughout the surrounding area, with 25 people arrested with a variety of charges. “Police have laid a number of drug and firearm-related charges, and further charges and arrests are expected as enquiries progress,” said District Commander Superintendent Tim Anderson about the warrants in Bay of Plenty. “Police, assisted by the Armed Offenders Squad in some cases, seized more than 80 grams of methamphetamine, $7,610, and recovered two stolen vehicles and a stolen motorbike. While executing the warrants, several loaded firearms were confiscated.”

The operation also led to the discovery of 11,000 cannabis plants that were either “sprayed, recovered, or pulled from the ground” according to a 1News report. “The plants ranged in size from seedlings to fully grown plants 2m high. Police recovered 729 plants at one Western Bay of Plenty address, 1.6kg of harvested cannabis at a Taupo property, and more than 4kg of edibles at an Eastern Bay of Plenty address,” Anderson continued. “The Greazy Dogs gang will be feeling particularly hard hit, with more than 2,500 plants removed from paddocks surrounding their gang pad and residential properties in Tauranga.”

Anderson added that the goal of these operations is to hinder the growth of illegal substances, and the warrants conducted in Bay of Plenty will have an “immediate effect” on gang activity. “Illicit drug operations on a commercial scale strengthen organised crime groups and harm our communities,” Anderson said. “The purpose of Operation Emerald isn’t to target recreational drug users—it’s to hit gangs and criminal entities, whose parasitic offending feeds off our communities. We’re thrilled to have hit their criminal networks and it’s pleasing to have results that have interrupted their offending. The large-scale production of illicit drugs is a high-risk activity and criminals arm themselves as protection. This increases the risk to innocent people and taking so many firearms out of the hands of criminals is only a good thing.”

Anderson estimated that New Zealand gangs likely receive about $406 million per year because of illegal cannabis sales. “We don’t want them here, we don’t need them here, and we will target their offending every chance we get,” Anderson concluded. “If you choose to cultivate a drug that remains illegal and if you use it to fund your criminal lifestyle and perpetuate misery in our communities, you can expect police to hold you to account and to seize illegal firearms, drugs and ill-gotten gains.”

In 2023, Operation Emerald seized or destroyed various illegal substances totaling a value of $128 million. Statistics about last year’s searches show that police found 35,097 cannabis plants (approximately 93.452 kg or 206 pounds of plant material in weight).

New Zealand’s cannabis eradication program was initially cancelled in January 2021 because it cost too much to send out helicopters and airplanes out to investigate illegal cannabis grow sites. However, the program was revived in January 2022.

Adult-use cannabis is currently illegal in New Zealand, but medical cannabis has been permitted since 2020. Meanwhile, the country’s first mushroom cultivation license was granted in October 2023. License holder Rua Bioscience is excited to offer legal psilocybin therapy options. “It is a privilege to be involved in this ground-breaking project and we are excited to be able to support this kaupapa,” said Rua Bioscience CEO Paul Naske. “It is exciting to see Australia and other jurisdictions embracing innovative and potentially life-changing medical research with psilocybin and exciting for Rua Bioscience to now be part of such a great national collaboration.”

The post 75-Year-Old New Zealand Man Arrested for Growing 250 Illegal Weed Plants appeared first on High Times.


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