New Zealand: Cannabis grower released from prison after appeal decision

A positive decision from a NZ court. The grower had been growing low THC medical cannabis and was not profiting from the grow ..

The Otago Times

A man behind a highly sophisticated cannabis cultivation of nearly 1000 plants has had two years slashed off his sentence.

Matthew Ian Anderson, 40, was jailed for three years one month after a jury at the Dunedin District Court found him guilty on three counts of cultivating the class-C drug.

The Court of Appeal heard the case last month, and in a decision released this week replaced the sentence with one of 12 months’ imprisonment, specifically noting it involved medicinal cannabis with low THC levels.

The result meant Anderson was immediately released from prison.

The case, which took more than five years to be resolved, began on 22 February 2017 when police raided a property in Temuka’s King Street.

The historic building, a former bank, housed a set-up that experienced police described as among the most complex they had seen.

A secret door inside the property’s pantry opened out into the front of the building where five chambers had been constructed using timber and plywood.

Police seized 891 plants and 2.7kg of packaged product.

The place had been fitted with an elaborate heating, lighting, watering and air-filtering system which was capable of producing $800,000 of “very high quality” cannabis per year.

“There were several whiteboards on which a schedule and other data for growing the cannabis were set out, and other various pieces of equipment, including a trimming machine to remove leaves from stalk,” Judge Michael Turner said at sentencing.

The growing operation would have potentially cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to set up, police estimated.

Anderson was also arrested over two smaller grows at other locations.

In the Court of Appeal’s judgement, Justice Murray Gilbert agreed the sentence imposed by Judge Michael Turner was “manifestly unjust” for three reasons:

  • The cultivations featured featured medicinal cannabis with low THC levels.
  • Anderson’s involvement was to ensure the quality of the product and secure his own supply of the drug.
  • The defendant did not stand to profit from the sales.

Anderson’s unchallenged evidence at trial was that no matter how much medicinal-grade cannabis was consumed, it would be “very, very hard” for the user to get “high”.

He had been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and oppositional defiant disorder as a young man and found cannabis enabled him to relax.

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