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Dylan Pattison (26) appeared in the Dunedin District Court yesterday where he was jailed for two years, four months on a charge of cultivating the class C drug.
When police raided the Union St East address — in the heart of the city’s student sector — on July 13 last year, they found 353 plants at various stages of maturity.
Crown prosecutor Richard Smith said it was a hugely significant grow, which could have yielded about $476,550.
Pattison said he initially got involved to grow solely for his own use but "got greedy".
Judge Michael Crosbie noted he had no previous convictions and was amazed by how much cannabis was inside the house.
"It sounds like people could’ve got high from just walking past it," he said.
The court heard Pattison was the first of three to be sentenced in relation to the commercial weed-growing syndicate.
He started renting the $400-a-week property in March last year and police got wind of the illegal activity the following month.
By July they had obtained interception warrants, which revealed more of what was going on between those involved.
"The three defendants regularly discussed things needing to be done to the plants at the address and when the various rooms would be ready for harvest," a police summary said.
Pattison was primarily responsible for tending to the plants on a daily basis.
Initially, the four bedrooms were used for growing cannabis but things quickly escalated.
Sophisticated equipment was bought to ensure the crop was successful, the court heard — grow lights controlled by time switches, air-ventilation ducting systems, carbon filters and oscillating fans were all installed.
Such was the scale of the grow the men put a reservoir-fed watering system in the roof for the seedlings.
Police estimated nearly $15,000 would have been spent on paraphernalia.
Counsel Sophia Thorburn stressed there was no evidence of significant financial gain for her client.
Any money he made went to supporting his partner and four children, she said.
Pattison reported issues with depression and anxiety, for which he used cannabis to self-medicate. He had got to the point where he believed he needed the substance to survive, the court heard.
Judge Crosbie said the defendant was much more than simply a gardener, as was suggested.
"You were an integral part of this operation, which was sophisticated," he said.
The judge said the defendant would be a good candidate for the drug dependency unit while behind bars and urged him to make the most of rehabilitative opportunities.
Another member of the syndicate is scheduled to be sentenced later this month, while a third is set to be dealt with by the court in March.