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From weed to meth

Cannabis dealers have turned to selling meth as use of the drug increases in Gisborne and on the East Coast.

An anonymous grower has told The Gisborne Herald that police eradication programmes had destroyed a majority of the cannabis supply, making it harder to buy, so dealers were picking up “the slack” by selling meth instead.

His claim comes as Department of Justice statistics show a decrease in cannabis offences before the court but a continuing prevalence of meth offences as police focus their efforts on more harmful drugs.

For the period July 1, 2018, to June 30, 2019, total drug offences for Gisborne dropped to 95 from the previous year’s 122.

Of the 2018-2019 offences, 71 resulted in convictions, down from the previous year’s 94.

There were 61 cannabis offences, resulting in 46 convictions, a significant decrease from the previous year’s 83 offences and 66 convictions.

This was a drop of over 66 percent from 153 offences in the 2009-2010 period.

Meth continues to have a major impact on Gisborne.

In the 2018-2019 period, there were 46 meth offences leading to 33 convictions — similar numbers to the previous year.

There has been a constant increase in meth offences from six offences in 2009/10. The highest number of meth offences in the past 10 years was 64, with 37 convictions, in 2017-2018.

In Ruatoria, there were seven drug offences in the 2018-2019 period. Five cannabis offences resulted in four conviction; two meth offences resulted in one conviction.

Mike Johnson (not his real name) has been growing cannabis on the Coast for 24 years and was one of the 2009/10 offence statistics.

“Workplace drug testing has decreased cannabis consumption and increased meth usage,” he said.

“Cannabis consumers moved to meth to beat workplace drug tests as it passes through your system faster than cannabis.

“You can consume meth on Friday night and be fine for a drug test on Monday morning.

“There has been a huge decline in cannabis consumption by now meth users in Ruatoria. I would say 70 percent of the population here use meth now.”

More younger people had taken advantage of the meth trade in Ruatoria, with dealers including 20-year-olds who worked in forestry.

“They would drive to Auckland to buy ounces of meth to sell to their workmates and friends around the Coast who could afford to buy it.

“It became known as the ‘working man’s drug’ as it was expensive at $1200 a gram or $130 for 0.1 of a gram,” he said,

“A lot of these main players in the cannabis cultivation scene ended up becoming meth addicts and would swap for meth instead of selling to make money to live off.

“Many families continue to suffer on the Coast as wages are spent on meth instead of family needs.”

Large amounts of profit were generated in a small amount of time due to the high demand for meth, he said.

“The offenders going through the court system had either been ‘narked’ on, or were part of police operations targeting those who deal drugs.

“The majority of those convicted for meth in Gisborne and the East Coast are lower society, small-time dealers and users. The major suppliers and big money players are very smart at covering their tracks.”

There is no multi-bed rehabilitation facility available to support those with meth addictions in Gisborne and on the Coast.

“This leaves the problem for family members to deal with.”.

Govt too focused on smashing down doors, jail sentences: Ngarimu“There are support groups like Ka Pai Kaiti, who address the problem and offer support to families, but more help from the Government and Ministry of Health is needed to curb the meth epidemic.

“Most ‘veteran’ meth users are in denial that they have a problem due to the drug’s ability to cloud judgement.

“The effects can make users feel on top of the world so they want to keep feeling that all of the time.”

Ngati4Life Trust manager Tuta Ngarimu said he received about three calls a week from whanau wanting support with meth addiction.

“We have no residential detox facility here . . . so all I can do is talk with them and help them however I can,” said Mr Ngarimu.

“The Government has said it committed $20 million to this region for an addiction unit, which is awesome. We are loving the talk from the Government about their change in standpoint towards drugs. But they have been focused on smashing doors down and handing out prison sentences rather than seeing the issue as a health problem.

“The recent news about methamphetamine shows there is a huge demand for it in our region and that is impacting on our community and whanau.”

Minister of Justice Andrew Little said police enforcement was increasingly turning to more harmful illicit drugs such as meth, which was one of the reasons for fewer cannabis convictions.

“Police are tied up with more serious Class A drugs,” Mr Little said.

“For those suffering addiction, the Government invested a record amount in this year’s budget in mental health and addiction.

“We are rolling out more services across New Zealand, and Gisborne and Ruatoria will see this over time.

“Meth is an insidious drug because it is so addictive. This is why our dual strategy of helping the users and going after the large-scale distributors and dealers is so important.

“We are committed to a health-based approach to drug use and to providing assistance to minimise harm.

“Prohibition hasn’t had a significant effect on reducing availability of cannabis. Legalisation will allow us to set tight controls on the supply of cannabis in New Zealand.

“By lowering the overall use of cannabis through education and addiction services we’ll be able to improve New Zealanders’ wellbeing by, among other things, disempowering gangs, lowering the prison population and ensuring the control of THC levels in cannabis products.

“Drug-related harm continues to destroy communities around the country but it’s an issue that we believe needs to primarily be dealt with as a health issue.

“The Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment Courts pilot shows people with drug addictions can turn their lives around,” said Mr Little.

“At the same time, the Government is committed to reducing both the demand and the supply of drugs — in particular by tackling organised crime.”