Staff rooms at some Switched on Gardener shops were kitted
out with extractor fans so staff could smoke marijuana at
work, a court has been told.
Jurors deciding the Switched on Gardener case will continue
their deliberations tomorrow at Auckland District Court where
Judge Gus Andree Wiltens today summed up the case.
Company executives are facing charges of participating in an
organised criminal group, possession of equipment and
supplying equipment used for growing cannabis.
Owner Michael Quinlan, general manager Peter John Bennett,
business development manager Ricky Cochrane, distribution
manager Andrew Barry Mai and the South Island manager Paul
Kenneth Barlow have all denied the charges.
The Crown says Switched on Gardener was a "one-stop shop" for
cannabis growing equipment. Marijuana was smoked at the staff
Christmas party and some of the 16 shops around the country
were hooked up with extractor fans allowing staff to smoke
the Class C drug during their breaks.
The Crown also says cannabis was smoked by management at
The prosecution has relied on evidence from undercover police
officers who posed as customers and spoke to staff at shops
around the country. Some were able to buy cannabis plants and
ounces of the drug from shop staff.
But Judge Andree Wiltens said the case was not about the
workers at the coalface.
"The Crown doesn't say each of the accused supplied the
equipment. They are at the higher echelon, they are the
managers and the owner. They are not on the shop floor."
He said the Crown's case was that the drug activity went on
with the permission of the bosses or with them turning a
Even the shop's logo included a marijuana leaf and some of
the company's vans had number plates that included "bud one"
and "bud freight".
But Judge Wiltens said there were "two sides of the story".
He said Quinlan was effectively retired at the close of the
police operation, code-named Operation Lime.
"He doesn't go to the shop on a day-to-day basis. He's more
into the Warriors [rugby league team] and good on him."
Judge Wiltens said Bennett told staff there was to be no
drugs on site and if they got caught they were on their own.
Cochrane's defence was that he brought the equipment in from
overseas but had no say in what was sold in the shops. Mai's
lawyer said he was paid only $16 an hour and filled the
orders from the individual shops at the company's west
Barlow's lawyer said he was responsible only for the South
Judge Wiltens said the defence case was that the only illegal
activity was occurring at the bottom of the business
structure and bosses could not be held responsible.
Many of the Switched on Gardener employees caught up in the
undercover operation have pleaded guilty to supplying
equipment to grow drugs.
The judge said the defence had also shown that some of the
equipment sold at Switched on Gardener shops was also sold at
"It's all about the line - what is lawful and what is not."
Judge Andree Wiltens also warned the jurors to ignore their
personal views on marijuana laws.
"Some people may not like the fact that possession of
cannabis and the consumption of cannabis is against the law
but it is.
"Regardless of whether you might like the fact - it is
The jurors have heard nine weeks of evidence and the
transcript now runs to nearly 1500 pages.