On November 3rd, 2021, New Zealand police executed search warrants on a handful of properties across Canterbury — seizing several kilograms of synthetic drugs as part of “Operation Ellerslie.”
The raids targeted properties in Avonhead, Papanui, Riccarton, Sockburn and Somerfield (all of which are located in or around Christchurch). As a result of the raids, police seized 3+ kilograms of harmful synthetic drugs, $40,000 in cash, and dismantled a major synthetic drug operation.
Police also arrested five people in connection with the operation. Three of the five (a 50-year-old woman, a 28-year-old man and a 61-year-old man) have been charged with participating in an organised criminal group, supplying controlled drugs and possessing controlled drugs for supply. They will face Christchurch District Court on Friday (November 4th).
The two other people police arrested (a 21-year-old man and a 24-year-old woman) have been charged with drug-related offences and participating in an organised criminal group. They will face court early next week on November 9th and 10th.
Police believe that the raids will “disrupt the supply” of synthetic drugs in the area (which they call “synthetic cannabis” — though synthetic drugs carry no relation to cannabis). Detective Senior Sergeant Joel Syme also stressed that synthetic drugs cause serious harm.
We know synthetic cannabinoids are highly addictive and have the ability to cause significant physical and mental harm, including fatal seizures.
Unfortunately, New Zealand saw some of the consequences of synthetic drugs a few months ago when a particularly deadly batch (4F-MDMB-BICA) was sold to unsuspecting people in the Taranaki area of the North Island. Though police ended up arresting someone in connection with 4F-MDMB-BICA, two people died. Synthetic drugs have also been linked to 55 deaths between 2000 and 2017 here in Australia.
New Zealand police have terminated Operation Ellerslie but have promised to continue to target those involved with synthetic drugs.