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Hard drugs hurting Nimbin after police 'hunt down' marijuana

Sophia Hoeben from the Nimbin Action Group talks to the crowd at the protest in Nimbin in 2016.
Sophia Hoeben from the Nimbin Action Group talks to the crowd at the protest in Nimbin in 2016. Marc Stapelberg

A HEIGHTENED police presence in Nimbin is threatening local businesses and the community, according to its residents.

Nimbin Action Group has sent a letter and a petition with more than 1000 signatures to the NSW Premier's office, pleading with the State Government to pull back the amount of drug raids in the village.

Group administrator, Sophia Hoeben, said she could not fathom why police continued to "hunt down" marijuana instead of targeting drugs such as ice and heroin.

She said more young people were dying on Nimbin streets since marijuana was no longer readily available.

"Some might say what a good job the police have done, but the police forgot to take away the hard drug dealers who the 'Laneway Boys' of Rainbow Lane constantly chased out of town," Ms Hoeben said.

But Richmond Local Area Command Chief Inspector Nicole Bruce said there had been no evidence of an increase in deaths due to overdoses in the region.

"Our statistics don't reflect that. The community is asking for the results of deceased incidents in Nimbin and we will not release that," Insp Bruce said.

"It is a privacy matter and that is something that the coroner addresses."

Insp Bruce said police were "winning the war" on drugs in the region, after a major operation in late July had a huge impact on cannabis supply in town.

"Rainbow Lane has almost ceased to exist as a main distribution of cannabis," she said.

"Considering they were dealing up to $100,000 worth of cannabis a week there, there is nowhere near the amount of cannabis being dealt to that extent."

Ms Hoeben said the frequency of police raids had also seen a drop in the number of tourists visiting the town.

"Shops in Nimbin have reported a loss of revenue and the Mardi Grass lost thousands in the number of tourists who usually come," she said.

"If locals are going to keep getting harassed in Nimbin then they are likely to go elsewhere, into surrounding communities like Kyogle and Lismore."

Insp Bruce said police were regularly out on the streets talking to the community attempting to resolve any tension between them.

"I hold police community consultative meetings out there regularly, where a number of community members including people like Michael Balderstone attend," she said.

"We discuss any issues that come up and are raised there and it is open to community members as well.

"Drug supply in Nimbin is a high priority for the Nimbin police, it has been an ongoing issue for as long as I have been here and we will continue to target it as long as it presents as a problem in the community."

This is not the first time the action group has called for an end to police raids - their first letter of complaint was sent back in 2007.

"We have had enough and given that marijuana is legal for recreational purposes in so many other countries around the world, we call for reason," Ms Hoeben said.

The NSW Minister for Police and Emergency Services office received the petition within the last week and said they will respond in due course.

Topics:  cannabis community plea drug raids marijuana nimbin northern rivers community northern rivers crime



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