Are cannabis raids effective?

HIGH TIMES: Police from Strike Force Hyperion unload cannabis seized from Clouds Creek State Forest south of Nymboida, which had an estimated street value of over $400,000.
HIGH TIMES: Police from Strike Force Hyperion unload cannabis seized from Clouds Creek State Forest south of Nymboida, which had an estimated street value of over $400,000. Jarrard Potter

POLICE cannabis raids on the Northern Rivers have been put under the microscope by law and cannabis experts.

Last week, NSW Police drug squad and Richmond Local Area Command police seized 3314 cannabis plants with an estimated street value of $6.6 million during the broader statewide operation, Strike Force Hyperion.

A total of 52 opium poppy plants were also confiscated as part of the operation.

After more two decades of the annual cannabis eradication operations across the region, lecturer at Southern Cross University's School of Law and Justice Aidan Ricketts said the raids haven't made a dint in the cannabis supply.

Citing millions of dollars in cannabis seizures in recent years, Mr Ricketts is critical of the effectiveness of the busts.

"If anything it's only a deterrent effect so maybe there is less people growing or people grow it in smaller quantities, But i don't think it has any appreciable effect on overall supply," Mr Ricketts said.

"Supply reduction doesn't work because the laws of supply and demand will always fill any gap."

Day one of the five-day operation last Monday, police said 918 cannabis plants from outdoor crops worth $1.93 million were obtained from the Channon and Nimbin area.

Nimbin Hemp Embassy president Michael Balderstone claimed the eradication program signifies "a cultural war rather than a cannabis search" in the region's west.

While he understands police targeting large cannabis plantations, Mr Balderstone said a "huge percentage" of crops in the Nimbin area are very small and grown for personal or medicinal use that would "never get to market or the street".

According to Mr Ricketts, many commentators have suggested the police's valuation of marijuana plants at $2000 a plant is "quite inflated."

Mr Balderstone agrees, he said the male plants and baby crops sometimes seized by police are "more or less worthless".

He said it's ironic that the is still illegal despite the State Government trialing medicinal cannabis

Looking to the future, Mr Ricketts questioned the imminence of cannabis decriminalisation in Australia in light of America's significant moves in many states to legalise the controversial drug.

"There is the coming sense that cannabis decriminalisation is coming internationally one way or another and yet we are sort of operating on a business as usual model in Australia and in NSW, " Mr Ricketts said.

If the drug is decriminalised in Australia, Mr Ricketts said resources from the cannabis eradication program could be reinvested into cracking down on other illicit substances such as ice.

"You've got things like meth labs and other drug concerns which as of much more concern to the community, a lot of people would probably prefer to see the resources going into those (operations)."

Richmond LAC crime manager Cameron Lindsay hit back at the criticism.  

"We certainly know that from Strike Force Cuppa we can allege the sale of cannabis is connection to organised crime including the sale of other drugs including methamphetamines."

Strikeforce CUPPA was launched in August 2015.

It is an investigation into the supply of illicit drugs within Nimbin.

To date 39 people have been charged in relation to offences relating to cannabis, methylamphetamine, weapons, domestic violence and other offences.

Topics:  cannabis cannabis bust cannabis law reform editors picks nimbin hemp embassy nsw police southern cross university

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