The impact of weed is the focus of a new study from the University of Canterbury (Photo: Lazingbee/iStock via Getty)
The impact of weed is the focus of a new study from the University of Canterbury (Photo: Lazingbee/iStock via Getty)

SocietyMarch 16, 2016

A nation in crisis – New Zealand’s catastrophic marijuana shortage

The impact of weed is the focus of a new study from the University of Canterbury (Photo: Lazingbee/iStock via Getty)
The impact of weed is the focus of a new study from the University of Canterbury (Photo: Lazingbee/iStock via Getty)

There’s a terrible drought affecting New Zealand, and no-one is reporting on it. Don Rowe goes where MSM churnalists fear to tread, and covers the great weed shortage of 2016. 

A giant ‘meh’ echoed around New Zealand last week, as news broke that a combined police and air force operation had culminated in the elimination of ‘around 9000’ cannabis plants in the Tasman district. Even as authorities trumpeted their success, most of the country concluded they just didn’t really care that much.

On Stuff, Twitter, the Herald and even Reddit, reactions ranged from ‘what a waste of money’ through to ‘what a waste of money’, with many pointing out the irony of engaging the services of the Royal New Zealand Air Force to bust weed growers, when it was simultaneously revealed that more than 150 burglaries a day currently go unsolved by police.

But there were some for who the news was actually devastating: namely, any true patriots who are keen on a sesh.

Magic: The Gathering and marijuana go like beer and sport.

The bust is another blow for a nation already in drought. Marijuana, easily New Zealand’s most popular illegal substance, is almost unobtainable in any meaningful amount right now. Blame it on the police, the gangs, the weather or just the grow cycle of your average cannabis harvest; no matter which way you slice it, it’s dry out there.

not even sam knows
Not even Sam knows.

As happens in all markets, reduced supply and intensive demand has driven commodity prices to ridiculous levels. An ounce of weed generally retails in the area of $300-$350, um, sources say. In 2016, the price has shot up to well over $400 in some cases, if you can get it at all. ‘Tinnies’, $20 since time immemorial, have not fluctuated in price, however reports from more than one major city indicate they are falling well short of the expected one gram minimum weight. Then there are the horror stories, this one from/r/nztrees, New Zealand’s own stoner subreddit:

help a brother out

A gram and a half for 100 bucks!? It’s daylight robbery: five times the average price for a gram and, at something like $300 per ounce wholesale (likely cheaper in larger, commercial amounts), a profit of $90 untaxed and straight into the black market.

Some say we should have seen this coming. We should have known. That when the last of the hash has been scraped, the nasty resin all smoked, you only have yourself to blame.

every year

Others say it could be prevented from ever happening again. The smokey smell of change is wafting in the air, lingering in our nation’s clammy newsrooms, snaking its way through the musty halls of Parliament.  ACT leader David Seymour is calling for marijuana legalisation on libertarian grounds, Nanogirl, aka Auckland Uni’s Dr Michelle Dickinson, wants it researched for medicinal use, Brian Rudman‘s writing about it in the Herald, and even Toni Street is down for the medicinal herb for the terminally ill. Stuff are requesting user submissions on cannabis, moving further toward the site’s end-goal of literally just publishing its comments section.

And there’s increasing evidence that it’s not only people with names like Graceful Earth who are turning to marijuana to cure their ills. It’s been revealed that both cricket hero Martin Crowe and old curmudgeon Sir Paul Holmes used cannabis to help relieve their pain in the last stages of life.

Unionist Helen Kelly is fighting a high-profile battle for the right to do so legally.

In a rational world, where adults were treated like sovereign (sorry) individuals, we could get this mess sorted out in a couple weeks. There’s a litany of reasons why options from decriminalisation through to legalisation might be good ideas, but I’m not going to delve in with forensic analysis because the arguments are as well-hashed (sorry) as they are boringly common sense.

Problem is, passing laws under urgency is a process reserved for real serious shit, like raising the price of cigarettes.

In the meantime, the droughts will keep coming.  And with them, the strange and saddening Facebook messages from people you just don’t know.


Want more on the inner workings of the drug economy? Have a lil puff of Weeds on Lightbox


Mad Chapman, Editor
Aotearoa continues to adapt to a new reality and The Spinoff is right there, sorting fact from fiction to bring you the latest updates and biggest stories. Help us continue this coverage, and so much more, by supporting The Spinoff Members.Madeleine Chapman, EditorJoin Members

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