|Graphic: Joe McGarry|
Lawyers say New Zealand police are testing the courts in their unprecedented drug bust targeting gardening equipment suppliers, which the cops are claiming “are complicit in cannabis cultivation.”
Police on Tuesday raided indoor gardening stores, including all 16 branches and the headquarters of Switched On Gardener, busting 35 businesses and more than 100 homes throughout New Zealand, reports Michael Dickison at the N.Z. Herald.
Officers claimed the gardening supply businesses were the “cornerstone of the illicit cannabis cultivation industry.”
Auckland barrister Andrew Speed said police would have to prove the gardening shops knew their equipment would be used to grow “illegitimate herbs.”
This is especially the case because garden supply stores have never been prosecuted like this before, Speed said.
“These businesses have been operating for years and police may have thought they’d at least have a go and test it in the courts,” Speed said. “These may be very difficult charges to prove.”
According to Barrister Steve Bonnar, charges will likely come under the Misuse of Drugs Act, hinging on being able to show that store owners knew their equipment would be used to grow cannabis, or at least they they were “being reckless.”
“The battle lines will be draw on what the knowledge was,” Bonnar said.
New Zealand’s Misuse of Drugs Act, section 12 a states it is against the law to supply equipment knowing “it is to be used” to cultivate prohibited plants.
The offense carries maximum penalty of seven years in prison.
Police Deputy Commissioner Rob Pope claimed on Tuesday that undercover police were given advice on how to grow cannabis by garden supply store personnel.