A Nelson man caught growing 180 cannabis plants out the back of his hydroponics shop says he was anticipating the legalisation of cannabis for medical purposes.
Kevin Yates, 46, was sentenced to five months' home detention and 200 hours' community work when he appeared in the Nelson District Court yesterday.
He had previously pleaded guilty to one charge each of cultivating cannabis, selling cannabis and possession of LSD.
In June, police searched Yates' Parere St business Indoor Exotic and found a padlocked area with a "sophisticated indoor cannabis operation", said Judge David McKegg. A total of 180 cannabis plants were recovered, along with 90g of dried cannabis heads and 40 tabs of LSD.
It was "naive and misguided" for Yates to say he had grown cannabis in anticipation of a bill in Parliament which aimed to legalise cannabis for medical purposes, Judge McKegg said.
"It seems clear that you had a view of legislation that was about to be considered that you felt would favour you considerably, and you were prepared to act illegally to get that commercial advantage.
"It seems that your interest in cannabis personally led you to this type of endeavour," Judge McKegg said.
Yates' lawyer Mark Dollimore said his client had a philosophy that cannabis had "major" medical advantages for people. Yates was optimistic there would be a law change allowing cannabis growers to dispense small amounts of the plant for medical health reasons, Mr Dollimore said. The bill was contemplated in July, a month after Yates was charged, but was defeated 38 votes to 47, Mr Dollimore said.
Yates was confident that had it become law, "he would have had a start in the situation".
Mr Dollimore said Yates was co-operative when arrested and admitted to police he had sold cannabis clones. "He sold 14 clones at $10 per clone, and made that admission straight away. He didn't hide behind the right to silence."
Yates had no previous convictions, had an "extremely good" relationship with his partner and was treating the situation very seriously, Mr Dollimore said.
Mr Dollimore asked that Yates be sentenced to home detention.
Crown prosecutor Janine Bonifant said the aggravating factors in the case included the fact Yates' setup was a commercial operation, regardless of the philosophy behind it. "It was a sophisticated operation and involved a large number of plants and clones."
The offending was further aggravated by the fact Yates had sold hydroponic and cultivation equipment at Indoor Exotic, Ms Bonifant said.
Placing "high potency" plants into the community could be viewed by the court as being more serious than the selling of dried cannabis.
Yates was misinformed about what had been proposed through the bill at Parliament, Ms Bonifant said. What was actually being proposed was a law to make cannabis available for medical reasons in a controlled way through chemists rather than individuals such as Yates, she said.
November 19, 2009