Police addicted to snazzy flight suits and pointless weed searches

Chloe Swarbrick is proud of the 'fact based' campaign for cannabis legalisation but says the same can't be said for those opposed. (First published October 30, 2020)

Joel Maxwell is a senior writer with Pou Tiaki for Stuff.

OPINION: Life can be a bit empty sometimes, and we can end up going round in the same old circles. The search for some relief, some meaning, some escape from this grind of humanity, life and all its myriad complications – pain and suffering – can lead us down some dark alleyways. We find addictions.

Personally, I’m a bit worried we might have to do an intervention on the cops. I think they’re addicted to wearing snazzy flight suits.

I don’t do any drugs stronger than caffeine. I don’t even drink any more. But even I see the utter pointlessness of splashing money on infantile searches for weed plants.

As reported by Stuff, six police districts around the country resumed aerial searches for the demon plant, despite the national programme being mothballed by police HQ.

An Air Force Iroquois helicopter pictured at Whatamango Bay in the Marlborough Sounds. (File photo)
Christine Cornege
An Air Force Iroquois helicopter pictured at Whatamango Bay in the Marlborough Sounds. (File photo)

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They said over the summer, the cannabis eradication operation located more than 34,000 plants, and 79 kilograms of dried weed – according to them, a haul with a combined street value of $95 million.

While I’m slightly sceptical about the street values thrown around by the police – the arbiters of their own success – let’s say they did indeed prevent this money from flowing through our communities.

Their arguments for the searches don’t seem to make sense. They spin them as a way to undermine large-scale commercial growers. As if this is about sticking it to Big Business, not those mum-and-dad operations just making a living.

So what? By this reasoning, are the police happy with more, smaller drug-selling operations? They don’t oppose people smoking a joint made from the plants in their own garden – their own means of production – but not one from a large operation? This sounds suspiciously like communism to me.

Jokes aside, in the end, the people who the criminal justice system is inordinately punishing are Māori, especially rangatahi Māori, who according to studies as recent as 2020 were convicted at higher rates for the same weed crimes as their non-Maori counterparts. Pākehā kids are just having a bit of youthful fun. Māori kids need punishment.

Joel Maxwell says perhaps police need an intervention themselves.
Jericho Rock-Archer/Stuff
Joel Maxwell says perhaps police need an intervention themselves.

All “cannabis use”, as the police call it, is personal at some point. I certainly take it somewhat personally when the system is so inequitable, and yet some districts are spending good money, $635,000 for the latest searches, chasing down the weed cartels of our farms, swamps, native bushes.

The pointlessness of the exercise, as shown in file pics of hovering Iroquois, is what simultaneously offends and amuses me.

Eagle-eyed cops in flight suits hovering over bushes: a search and rescue operation to save us from munchies. The results of using weed seems to be no worse than other legal drugs like booze and cigarettes.

If that is the case – and, as outlined by the cops, the focus is on cutting off weed income to organised crime (rather than spending the time and money on terrible drugs like methamphetamine) – then the solution seems to be clear. We should make weed legal and regulated.

I'm too old and way too square to imbibe in weed myself, and it surely has health and mental health impacts on some people. But those are problems that need to be added to the long list of things currently not getting fixed by our underfunded health system.

Personally, I would like that $635,000 to go towards a high level examination of racial inequities within the criminal system. Send some officers up to have a long hard look at themselves.