A mature student with only a student allowance as legitimate income was living in a $730 a week warehouse at Seaview, Lower Hutt, growing quality cannabis.
Rikihana James Porter will turn 50 just after Christmas, six weeks into the two years and five months jail term imposed in the High Court at Wellington today.
When police searched the Hutt Park Rd warehouse on June 18 they found Porter had been sleeping close to two large buckets of cannabis head with a street value of $15,000.
More than 230 plants were growing, 101 of them mature plants, spread over five rooms. Smaller seedlings were growing in a hydroponic nursery area with the larger plants growing in soil. Each room had light shields, fans, transformers, air filters and ventilation systems.
More than eight kilograms of quality cannabis head was found with a total value of more than $55,000.
Police also found cannabis oil being made.
Cannabis growing in those conditions could produce several crops a year and it was estimated Porter's annual yield might have returned him more than $400,000.
Electrical equipment used in the cultivation cost more than $30,000 and rent for the warehouse was about $730 a week.
Porter had previously pleaded guilty to charges of growing the cannabis, having it intending to sell it, and making cannabis oil.
In court today prosecutor Andrea Ewing said Porter had been growing cannabis since at least April.
Porter's lawyer Chris Tennet had argued Porter was addicted to cannabis as pain relief for a back injury and so he was less blameworthy than someone who "just picked it up and smoked and smoked and smoked".
He said the police forecast of yield had to be "cut down" before it was realistic.
Porter was trying to organise his life in a positive way by making arrangements to treat his addiction and pain issues and continue studying. A prison sentence would postpone Porter's plans but not make them fall apart, Mr Tennet said.
Justice David Collins said Porter's pain problem could not lessen the sentence.
A Corrections Department report writer had recommended home detention for Porter. The judge said he hoped the recommendation had not unduly and unfairly raised Porter's hopes.
- The Dominion Post
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