Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Switched on Gardener: to what purpose?

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  • Dastardly Bounder,

    Nicely oriented article Russel. There's so many pitfalls in this subject and regurgitated arguments about prohibition, which you've avoided. The New Zealand authorities efforts to stem the illicit cannabis cultivation seem to be as futile as anywhere else. To quote the late Bill Hicks "George Bush says 'we are losing the war on drugs'. Well you know what that implies? There's a war going on, and people on drugs are winning it! Well what does that tell you about drugs? Some smart, creative motherfuckers on that side."

    Auckland • Since Dec 2012 • 29 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Even if you buy that stopping dope cultivation should be something the police spend time on, this really was a stupid way to go about it, targeting horticultural supplies stores.

    It's always going to be insanely hard to stop dope cultivation, though, it's highly decentralized. So easy to have a small operation, with very little difficulty finding buyers.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8010 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen,

    But it was and is perfectly possible to go there for quite legitimate reasons.

    We bought a lot of our hydroponics equipment there for our research on branching in petunia.

    I understand the police have a responsibility to enforce all laws. But I can't help but feel that the effort that went into this case could have been better spent on other things.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3108 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    But I can't help but feel that the effort that went into this case could have been better spent on other things.

    Yup, targeting meth production would make more sense, for starters, something that actually is run by gangs.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8010 posts Report Reply

  • James Butler, in reply to BenWilson,

    Yup, targeting meth production would make more sense, for starters, something that actually is run by gangs.

    Genuine Q: Isn't most marijuana production run by gangs too? Of course that's not really the market SOG supplies to, so it doesn't really have much to do with this.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2009 • 790 posts Report Reply

  • Dastardly Bounder, in reply to James Butler,

    I wouldn't trust any official statistics on quantity of production and distribution by individuals vs gangs. I have observed though, that anyone who wants to get marijuana in NZ generally can, and that most of it comes through friends of friends of friends, not gangs.

    Auckland • Since Dec 2012 • 29 posts Report Reply

  • James Millar, in reply to James Butler,

    Yeah I would have thought that the supply of cannabis would come from 1) gangs or 2) small scale operations using hydroponic equipment. Surely time would be better spent going after the big gang suppliers than trying to crack down on the small fish? I can imagine casual users would actively prefer to get cannabis through friends of friends than by using tinny houses & the gang network (where they get exposed to P among other things). It seems to me that the polic targetting SOG would be the best things the gangs could hope for to eliminate competitors from the marketplace and increase their market share...

    The cynic in me suspects it's a case of the police trying to get the low-hanging fruit (however futile), and politicians being more concerned with appearing 'tough on crime' and posturing (Like the Judith Collins quote above) than actually doing anything about the problem that might help, like harm reduction measures tried overseas supported by large bodies of evidence.

    Tāmaki Makaurau • Since May 2007 • 19 posts Report Reply

  • Phil fryer,

    Soft targets are usually the target, the harder ones have the resources,to cover their backsides,& leave egg, on the face of the oppressors !
    If the country was run by smokers,smarter decisions, on a range of matters could prevail !

    Laingholm • Since Mar 2011 • 34 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    budding bidders?
    I loved this observation from the judge:

    The judge said the defence had also shown that some of the equipment sold at Switched on Gardener shops was also sold at police auctions.

    Perhaps they should be prosecuting themselves,
    or their auctioneers?

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 4186 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    I think it's mostly about the cops asserting their authoriteh. A bit like wandering round town in a Mongrel Mob jacket.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4209 posts Report Reply

  • Chris Waugh, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    So the next attempted gang patch ban should include police uniforms in the definition of banned gang insignia? I can imagine that going down real well with the law and orderers.

    Beijing • Since Jan 2007 • 1717 posts Report Reply

  • Angus Robertson,

    They both look capricious and arbitrary.

    They look a sight less capricious when they were deigning not to prosecute this cannabis support industry, because umm...

    ... Operation Lime has been a humiliating failure. Fourteen branches of Switched On Gardener continue to trade, as they had done for years before the investigation. If there was an interruption of any kind to the illicit supply of cannabis, it went unnoticed.

    It is too early to tell.

    The police have secured a number of convictions* against SOG staff (& owners), people who have supplied lots of equipment to cannabis growers. The police can now progress down the chain and go after the SOG customers. This could be the starting point for a large number of effective actions against cultivators of cannabis.

    * If the organised criminal group prosecution had been successful this next step would have been easier, but the police probably still have enough leverage to get SOG employees to cooperate.

    Auckland • Since May 2007 • 984 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford,

    When my workshop was burgled. I lost most of the tools of my trade. The Police didn’t show up to investigate until after a week with me persistently hassling them to at least look for finger prints.

    While its annoying how much police resource went into trying to close down switched on gardner, it’s really depressing to see how much energy is required for policing the alcohol industry. Before we start arguing that alcohol is worse than dope and so on. That’s not what I’m suggesting.

    Since Nov 2006 • 2277 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Dastardly Bounder,

    I have observed though, that anyone who wants to get marijuana in NZ generally can, and that most of it comes through friends of friends of friends, not gangs.

    Yes, same. Tinny houses are a last resort, a very expensive option. The whole premium of having to manage a tinny house, and the very high risk of getting busted is factored into price, as is the customer's urgency to get out of the place. Compared to a bunch of friends basically handing each other some small bags occasionally. It's a dead easy plant to grow, with a high yield per square meter, and no processing beyond cutting it up and bagging it at the end, so it's a popular cottage industry.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8010 posts Report Reply

  • Mike O'Connell,

    They both look capricious and arbitrary

    I wonder if this is becoming the norm for policing under Judith Collins? More capricious, arbitrary - and intimidating police behaviour where (low-level) cannabis use is ‘suspected’?

    It made me think of Dakta Green and the Daktary. I checked their website and in the most recent blog (October 29), of which its veracity I can’t ascertain, they report this:

    On Sunday, while the club was open, 3 cop cars drove by very slowly, but did not stop to visit. One of the cop cars stopped close to the building, turned the flashing lights on for about 30 seconds, sat there a little longer, then drove slowly away...What does that mean? A new form of surveillance? Testing the lights?...

    It’s interesting that the Daktary remains open and is more explicit in its 'cannabis profile’ than SOG - people actually smoke the stuff there from what I understand.

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 78 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Mike O'Connell,

    people actually smoke the stuff there from what I understand.

    They actually had a vending machine for it.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8010 posts Report Reply

  • dc_red,

    Some of the recent reporting around this case has been interesting ... the best being a rather breathless account of 'cannabis being smoked at a staff christmas party.' Oh, the humanity.

    Drinking toxic quantities of alcohol at such parties the length and breadth of the country doesn't merit media concern of course.

    Interestingly christmas parties here in Canada seem to be quite sober affairs by comparison. I'm not sure why, but expect there might be legal liabilities around employers providing drinks. Or cannabis for that matter, which is still technically illegal. Possession of cannabis still accounts for the majority of drug arrests in Canada.

    Oil Patch, Alberta • Since Nov 2006 • 706 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Angus Robertson,

    If the organised criminal group prosecution had been successful this next step would have been easier, but the police probably still have enough leverage to get SOG employees to cooperate.

    I rather think that the police exercising "leverage" on people to "cooperate" is pretty much the kind of undesirable behaviour we're talking about.

    And will it work? No. It's worth recalling that the indoor growing business is basically a result of past enforcement efforts directed at outdoor cultivation. The police used to fly helicopters over Ponsonby and Grey Lynn back yards. They don't bother with that any more.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 17921 posts Report Reply

  • Luke Williamson,

    They were always going to get convicted for something because they were so overt about what they were doing – and they were breaking the law. Without wanting to go into the comparative harm arguments, one can't help but do a comparison again, e.g. police raid chain of shops selling home brew kits and charge owners with running criminal gang. Some shops were selling home-made beer at the counter and staff were known to drink some at lunchtime in canteens in which fridges had been installed, specifically for storing home brew below room temperature.

    Warkworth • Since Oct 2007 • 234 posts Report Reply

  • Kiwiiano,

    I wonder if Ms Collins will instruct the Constabulary to spend up to five years tracking down the $111,000,000 that's missing from David Ross inc?

    ChCh • Since Nov 2006 • 22 posts Report Reply

  • Angus Robertson, in reply to Russell Brown,

    I rather think that the police exercising "leverage" on people to "cooperate" is pretty much the kind of undesirable behaviour we're talking about.

    Cannabis use is a voluntary and mostly victimless activity. Hardly anyone involved is going to cooperate with the police willingly. But cannabis use is illegal and therefore our police have to take action.

    If this sort of leverage can't be made to work we end up only prosecuting for cannabis those people who commit other crimes (mostly poor people) and who are then found to be involved in cannabis. Without this sort of approach we will be letting the richer parts of society commit cannabis crimes almost without consequence.

    Auckland • Since May 2007 • 984 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Luke Williamson,

    Some shops were selling home-made beer at the counter

    I might be wrong, but wasn't it one employee at the store in Tauranga who sold some seedlings and one other some actual pot? Given the aggressive use of undercover officers to go and and ask for these things over several years, it's not exactly the face of organised crime.

    The police admitted to leaving out of their reports the encounters where undercover officers had been told by staff they wouldn't even discuss cannabis.

    and staff were known to drink some at lunchtime in canteens in which fridges had been installed, specifically for storing home brew below room temperature.

    At the staff Christmas party? I've worked places where that has been the case.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 17921 posts Report Reply

  • Keir Leslie,

    I reckon if you walked into any gardening store in NZ and asked around enough you could meet a guy that'd sell you some seedlings...

    Since Jul 2008 • 1251 posts Report Reply

  • andrew r,

    Cannabis prohibition is depressing.As of today Washington Sate USA looks a little more forward and up to date in it's thinking legally in this respect. I talked to a few Crown Prosecutors about the case.To them Switched on Gardner were selling equipment and making tens of thousands in profit. Equipment that the owners knew was to be specifically used for gowing cannabis which in some cases they argue, would then be on sold. To them, this is seen as some kind of rackateering and so deeply unlawful, and further, harmful to society at large.Yep they still really seem to believe this. There is almost maybe a resentment issue there. Therefore, they say, prosecution was both necessary and worth while regardless of the cost. Hard to shake them on that. A real mindset.

    auckland • Since May 2007 • 73 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Angus Robertson,

    If this sort of leverage can’t be made to work we end up only prosecuting for cannabis those people who commit other crimes (mostly poor people) and who are then found to be involved in cannabis. Without this sort of approach we will be letting the richer parts of society commit cannabis crimes almost without consequence.

    Being young, poor or brown -- and especially all of the above -- will increase your chances of being prosecuted for a cannabis offence. But how on earth does Operation Lime alter that?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 17921 posts Report Reply

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