Northland police defend massive cannabis raid ahead of referendum

Northland police are defending a major raid which found 4000 cannabis plants in a series of glass houses.

A large greenhouse full of cannabis plants which was raided by police. Source: Supplied

Yesterday police said it was one of the biggest cannabis growing operations found in the region in recent years, with more than 20 staff carrying out the search warrant near Dargaville.

Four men have been charged with cultivating cannabis.

"There can be little doubt the cannabis being cultivated was destined for supply throughout New Zealand," detective senior sergeant Geoff McCarthy said yesterday.

"This is a great result for our communities who in the end suffer from the effects of drugs and organised crime."

But police have come under fire online for the raid.

Later this year, New Zealanders will vote in a binding referendum asking if cannabis should be legal in the country.

It's sparked criticism for the timing and whether police could have exercised discretion.

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Chris Wilkins says we’re lagging behind the likes of Australia and Canada when it comes to measuring the effect of drugs on society. Source: 1 NEWS

However, Northland police are firmly defending their actions, saying it was the right call for multiple reasons.

"In general, the large scale manufacturing of cannabis is driven by organised crime groups and gangs with the intention of selling the drugs to make a profit," police said in a statement this afternoon.

"In the majority of cases these organised crime groups will also deal in methamphetamine and other drugs that cause tremendous harm in our communities. They prey on vulnerable communities and families suffer as a result.

"The seizure in this case was part of a wider operation targeting not only the large-scale cultivation of cannabis for sale, but methamphetamine dealers and providers, psychoactive substances, as well as illegal firearms and other proceeds of crime."

Not everyone is pleased with their responses, with one person commenting that they could have kept the plants instead of destroying them.

But another person pointed out that it's still illegal and "police are still doing their jobs".

"They don't make the rules, the Government does."

Whether or not the referendum will pass is still up in the air, with the polls showing close results that frequently switch positions.

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Forty-three per cent said legalise in the latest Colmar-Brunton poll, up 4 points on our June poll while 49 per cent said don’t legalise, down three points. Source: 1 NEWS

In the latest 1 NEWS-Colmar Brunton poll, in December, 49 per cent voted for cannabis to remain illegal.

But just a year before that, in an October 2018 1 NEWS-Colmar Brunton poll, the results were slightly more in favour of legislation than against.