Cannabis-grower 'driven by profit'

Police said such was the care put into the maintenance of Harley Brown’s crop, there was little...
Police said such was the care put into the maintenance of Harley Brown’s crop, there was little chance any of the 144 plants would die. PHOTOS: SUPPLIED
A Dunedin man has been locked up after police found a large-scale cannabis grow at his home that could have scored him more than $100,000.

When police raided Harley James Brown's Union St address, he admitted he had rented the three-bedroom flat specifically for the drug operation.

The 25-year-old occupied one of the rooms while the other two housed three indoor growing tents, the Dunedin District Court heard this week.

Brown had taken cuttings from a "mother plant" to ensure the quality of his crop, police said.

The clones were then nurtured in a controlled environment.

Brown had closed the curtains so lighting was controlled, there were time switches, and water, nutrients and ventilation were all tended to.

"The defendant connected an air ventilation ducting system, venting into the ceiling from the growing chambers," court documents said.

When the search warrant was executed on June 21 last year, officers found 132 seedlings and 12 mature plants, about 1m tall.

"They had been well cared for and were ready for harvest," police said.

There could be no question over Brown's intentions.

"Overall, this was an enterprise with a commercial focus," Crown prosecutor Catherine Ure said.

Officers found dried cannabis packaged and ready for sale and 22g yet to be sorted.

Brown had digital scales and many more plastic bags at the ready for after the harvest, the court heard.

A police expert said the class C drug, when grown under heavily manipulated conditions, was unlikely to fail.

He conservatively estimated that each plant would produce a yield of two ounces for sale.

At $350 an ounce, Brown was sitting on more than $100,000 of cannabis, police calculated.

Judge Kevin Phillips said the total could even have exceeded that.

There was no way Brown could pass the crop off as being for personal use.

"He could not, even if he smoked for 24 hours a day for three months, go through the amount of drugs he was growing," the judge said.

Defence counsel Marie Taylor-Cyphers said her client's drug use had been the catalyst for the offending.

She stressed he had no previous drug convictions.

"He's really leapt into it at a quite alarming rate," Ms Taylor-Cyphers said.

She argued for a sentence that took Brown's rehabilitative needs into account.

For consideration of a non-custodial sentence, though, Judge Phillips needed to reach an end point of under two years.

He could not.

"This man was driven by profit, by money," he said.

Brown was convicted of cultivating cannabis, possession for supply and possession of equipment, and jailed for two years, three months.

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