Elderly Kiwi Busted in Major Cannabis Grow Operation Crackdown

In a shocking discovery, a 75-year-old man from New Zealand has been arrested for illegally cultivating a massive crop of 250 cannabis plants. The bust was part of an ongoing nationwide operation codenamed “Operation Emerald” targeting large-scale illicit drug cultivation.

The Central District Organised Crime Unit, assisted by the Royal New Zealand Air Force, executed a search warrant at the elderly man’s remote property near the Whanganui River. Aerial surveillance revealed multiple greenhouses suspected of housing cannabis plants despite the owner’s expired hemp cultivation license.

“The team established good cause to suspect cannabis was being grown in large tunnel houses there,” stated Detective Inspector Paul Baskett. Officers were dropped in by helicopter due to the isolated location’s inaccessibility.

Upon searching the premises, they uncovered not just the 250 illicit plants but also a shed containing dried cannabis material. The 75-year-old now faces illegal cultivation charges following a court appearance.

Operation Emerald’s recent efforts didn’t stop there. Over five days in the Bay of Plenty region, police conducted 39 search warrants, arresting 25 individuals on drug and firearm offenses. Massive hauls included 80 grams of methamphetamine, stolen vehicles, loaded firearms, and a staggering 11,000 cannabis plants.

“The Greazy Dogs gang will feel particularly hard hit, with over 2,500 plants removed from their properties,” remarked District Commander Tim Anderson, underlining the operation’s impact on organized crime.

Anderson emphasized the initiative’s goal was disrupting large commercial drug operations funding criminal enterprises rather than targeting casual users. He estimated New Zealand gangs reap around $406 million annually from illicit cannabis sales alone.

“If you cultivate illegal drugs to fund your criminal lifestyle, you can expect police to seize your ill-gotten gains,” Anderson warned. “We don’t want gangs perpetuating misery in our communities.”

In 2023 alone, Operation Emerald has seized or destroyed illegal substances valued at $128 million, including over 35,000 cannabis plants representing 206 pounds of material.

As New Zealand grapples with reforming its cannabis policies, with medical use permitted since 2020, authorities remain resolute in curbing the illicit market’s links to organized crime through large-scale busts like this startling elderly case.


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