|Dumb cop smirks with High Times, part 1,536: Constable Anna Plowman shows off copies of that “dangerous” magazine seized at a New Zealand shop that was the subject of a search warrant Tuesday.|
A nationwide “drug bust” went down in New Zealand Tuesday, as police shut down all 16 branches and the distribution center of hydroponic cultivation chain Switched On Gardener.
Hundreds of people ranging in age from 20 to 60, including customers of the stores, were arrested, with many facing charges for selling equipment for growing marijuana, reports the New Zealand Herald.
Police raided 35 businesses and homes throughout the country as part of a two-year undercover police investigation code-named Operation Lime. The bust targeted businesses and individuals selling equipment which the officers claim is used for growing cannabis.
Police seized records showing who was buying the growing equipment, then launched more stings to catch suspects in the act of growing and selling cannabis.
Police Minister Judith Collins congratulated officers on shutting down what they claim is a major source of equipment for commercial marijuana growers. Collins claimed Tuesday’s arrests would send a strong message to those who “tried to produce drugs in New Zealand” that they would be caught.
|New Zealand Police Minister Judith Collins: “The message to those who manufacture and sell drugs in our community is that the government and the police are determined to shut down your activities”|
”The message to those who manufacture and sell drugs in our community is that the government and police are determined to shut down your activities, and will use every tool at their disposal to do so,” Collins said.
Owners and managers of Switched On Gardener were among those arrested Tuesday. They are due to appear in courts throughout New Zealand on charges including cannabis cultivation and “participating in an organized criminal group.”
Deputy Police Commissioner Rob Pope, who badly needs a history lesson, claimed Operation Lime would “break the cornerstone of the illicit cannabis cultivation industry.”
“We’ve got strong evidence of [the businesses’]complicity in supplying equipment for cannabis growing on a sophisticated scale,” Pope claimed, report Britton Broun and Kate Newton of The Dominion Post.
Search warrants were issued Tuesday in every police district, according to Pope.
“Cannabis is the most abused controlled drug in New Zealand,” Pope said, seemingly unaware that making cannabis illegal is the opposite of “controlling” it. “The harm that this drug causes New Zealand communities can be conservatively estimated at $430 million a year,” Pope added, pulling an obviously mythical figure out his ass.
|Craig Simcox/Dominion Post|
|Deputy Police Commissioner Rob Pope: “Cannabis is the most abused controlled drug in New Zealand”|
”It hurts every community in every part of the country,” Pope absurdly claimed, without bothering to back up his outlandish statement.
During the undercover operation, police agents claim they bought growing equipment, were given advice on how to cultivate cannabis, “and even purchased cannabis clones and other drugs over the counter from these offenders.”
Pope said businesses had been selling drugs and supporting commercial cannabis cultivators and “organized crime” for a long time, and that Operation Lime had stopped the supply of equipment to grow drugs, evidently unaware that they can’t arrest and jail the sun for shining.
The 250 arrestees face more than 700 charges. Arrested were employees, managers and directors of the companies, along with cannabis cultivators. More than 100 commercial cannabis growing operations linked to the businesses were also raided.
Police claimed they also seized methamphetamine, LSD, ecstasy and firearms.
Pope said suppliers of equipment to aid growers would continue to be targeted.
“Criminals buying equipment for their cannabis grows were observed and followed,” Pope bragged. “If people purchase these products for illegal purposes, they can expect to receive a visit from the police.”
“Today we are sending a strong message to those who seek to profit from the cannabis industry,” Pope crowed. “You will not get away with it.”
Proceedings will start under New Zealand’s new Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act 2009 to seize assets and money. Police claimed “honest suppliers of equipment to genuine gardeners” were not targeted in the operation.
New Zealand’s online auction site, Trade Me, on Tuesday also banned trading in “equipment used to cultivate cannabis.”
A Trade Me spokesman, Chris Budge, said police had asked it to close the accounts of three members, who he understood had been arrested.
Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party leader Michael Appleby, a Wellington lawyer, said Operation Lime was an “absurd waste” of police and Justice Ministry resources.
“Surely there are more important things to do than target businesses that sell equipment — whether it be used for cannabis or flowers,” Appleby said.