Police to monitor hydroponics sales - Papers Please?

, posted: 28-Apr-2010 18:52

Except from an article in Stuff today in relation to the "drugs bust" at "Switched On Gardener" - that shop chain that advertises hydroponic gardening supplies on late night TV (shock horror who would have thought).

Police to monitor hydroponics sales

Auckland field crime manager Detective Inspector Stu Allsopp-Smith said the company's directors and employees were granted bail on the condition that staff maintain records of all customers purchasing equipment at its stores.

They must check every customer's photo identification and record their full name, date of birth, address, contact phone number, and ID serial number.

They must also record descriptions of all purchased items, along with serial numbers or other unique identifications.

Each transaction record should be dated and signed by the employee, and must be made available to police for inspection, Mr Allsopp-Smith said.

Is it just me, or does anybody else see that this is a real dangerous precedent to be setting.  I can see that ok, these particular stores may have been involved in supplying the necessary equipment for hydroponic cultivation of cannabis, but there are plenty of hydroponic gardeners out there I'm sure that don't grow their own drugs, and use that exact same equipment, why must these people be subject to such, I think, draconian information gathering issues, where their every move is being  logged, investigated by the police.

Lets put this in a term of reference that geeks will understand - bittorrent.  Bittorrent as you know can be, perhaps is generally, used for the ostensibly illegal trading of copyright material, movies, mp3s that kind of thing.  But it is also used for many legitimate purposes to spread  bandwidth usage around the internet when serving up large files to many recipients in a short time frame is required.  Should every single thing we get on bittorrent be logged to some national "hey you might be breaking copyright" database and investigated, should people be examining our bittorrenting and investigating us just because we used bittorrent and therefore COULD be committing copyright infringement.  I would say NO, that would be a gross invasion of privacy.

So for now, the specific shops that were targeted in this "anti drugs operation" are now required to report to the police the actions of all their customers.  How long before other businesses are required to do the same.

No sir.  I don't like it.

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Comment by timestyles, on 28-Apr-2010 19:40

Not really, because I have to do the same for Neurofen Plus every week.  Go to their website sog.co.nz and have a look around.  Anyway, most of what they sell (anyone fancy a souped up wardrobe for $1100?) can be made from other parts, obtained without ID, whereas I really can't manufacture Neurphen using ingredients.

Comment by Al, on 28-Apr-2010 19:43

Lets get a few things straight this is a bail condition designed to stop further offending, yes thats right folks illegal stuff. Not something that can be imposed on any business unless its business is criminally illegal.

Secondly, your comparison to bit torrent is flawed - bit torrent, like hydroponics equipment *can* be used for illegal purposes, but this is not a case of can, but a case of was....as in equipment was being sold for illegal purposes, hell the staff were giving specific advise on how to grow dope.

Yes there maybe people out there with legitimate hydroponics business - they are not the ones who were commiting offences, and thus they are also not the ones facing bail conditions.

Pretty simple really - dont break the law = no problem.

How long before other business are required to do the same? Guess it depends whether they break criminal law!

Comment by Dratsab, on 28-Apr-2010 20:22

The "draconian" measures as you call them have been imposed as part of their bail conditions - I can't think of any cases where someones bail conditions have become a law for everyone else to abide by.

Your also incorrect when you say they have to "report to the police the actions of all their customers."  They have to record specific details when specific equipment is sold and have that information available for viewing if police wish to view it.

This is no different to the regime that exists for all registered secondhand dealers.  However, in this case these people appear to have been caught with their hand in the honeypot.

I see nothing wrong with this at all.

Author's note by sleemanj, on 28-Apr-2010 20:29

Bittorrent is, right now, being used, by probably a hundred different New Zealanders, at this second, for copyright infringement.  It most certainly IS being used for illegal purposes.  It's not a case of can, but of is, as in bittorrent is being used for illegal purposes, hell there are people in New Zealand who will give you specific advice on how to use bittorrent.
The stated intent of these "conditions" is that the these specific shops can continue to trade for their "legitimate" businesses because the police didn't want to cause hardship for the shops, the shops that they "caught".  

The police have said that they intend that these conditons will mean that the criminal element won't use the shops.  Who does that leave then, the legitimate customers, who are now required to give over their identity and, by extension, submit to probably investigation and questioning by police.


Author's note by sleemanj, on 28-Apr-2010 20:35

As for restricted item sales at chemists.  

That's marginally different.  Since (we are talking about pseudoephedrine etc right?) it's a direct component of such a serious and hazardous hard drug and if you are purchasing in retail packaging you need a LOT of it.

I'm not sure I totally agree with it though... but I'd go to the extent of it being prescription only medication.

Comment by FreakyKiwi, on 29-Apr-2010 09:40

Its quite simple, this is a public bail condition - the public are aware of it. They can choose to go elsewhere...

Author's note by sleemanj, on 29-Apr-2010 10:53

@Freaky: Yes, I guess you are right there, I suppose there is nothing stopping people from refusing to do business when asked for ID etc.

@dratsab: the difference with 2nd hand dealers (and I have some experience in this business from the vendors side) is that details are taken when the dealer buys goods, not sells them, and the details are specifically taken in order to track down stolen goods when necessary "sir the widget in your window was stolen, please show us your purchase record for the widget" - not general fishing expeditions.

There are occasional cursory checks that the process is being followed but this is simply (or at least was 10 years ago when I was last directly involved) a burglary unit police officer randomly poking his head into a shop having a chat and checking that the purchase book is being used.

I just have a hard time seeing how in this case the details collected can really be for anything other than fishing "we see you bought a ...... please let us into your house so we can search for drugs".  Perhaps that's not the police's idea... but then they should clarify exactly WHAT this information will be used for.

Collecting information is one thing, ok, people can agree to that (except when EVERYBODY is required to collect information... first they came for...) but it should be collected for a clearly stated or at least understood purpose.

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James Sleeman
New Zealand

PHP Programmer Extraordinaire

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