Man denies knowing of synthetic cannabis

Last updated 12:00 12/08/2014

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An Otaki man says he knew nothing of his brother's illegal synthetic cannabis operation, despite the chemicals being delivered to his house and the cannabis being prepared there.

Michael Robin Clulee is on trial in Palmerston North District Court, facing 11 charges related to importing, exporting and manufacturing synthetic cannabis product Swag.

From February to August 2012, packages of chemicals from China were posted to his Otaki house.

He also posted packages of Swag, labelled as incense, to Australia, heading to the Otaki PostShop to do so.

Some of the packages weighed as much as 3.4 kilograms, and Clulee passed some of them off to staff at the shop as potpourri.

Customs officers intercepted some of the chemical packages heading into the country addressed for Clulee's house.

Some of the packages were labelled as metal corrosion inhibitor, or glucose acid sodium salt, and valued by the sender at as little as 50 cents.

Those packages are alleged to have contained synthetic cannabis chemicals which were controlled, after temporary class drug notices were made against them.

When a notice is made against a chemical or drug, it becomes illegal to import, export, manufacture, supply or sell the substance, or products containing the substances.

However, possession of small amounts of the substance is usually permitted.

Police raided Clulee's property in August 2012 and found equipment allegedly used to create synthetic cannabis in his garage.

Crown prosecutor Daniel Flinn said most of the packages were addressed to Clulee's brother, Hamish, and the synthetic cannabis was packaged and created at Michael Clulee's house.

The jury was told the brother had already pleaded guilty to charges relating to the packages.

Clulee must have known what was going on, Flinn said.

"He knew he was dealing with psychoactive substances which were sold to people in order to get them high."

Even if Clulee did not know exactly what was going on, he could be found guilty through wilful blindness, Flinn said.

"[That is] when you are suspicious about something, but you deliberately refrain from making further inquiries because you want to remain ignorant."

Defence lawyer Michele Wilkinson-Smith told the jury of nine women and three men they had to be careful when dealing with a case where synthetic cannabis was involved. Clulee's brother had assured him the product was legal, and told many others the same, she said. The trial before Judge Gerard Lynch continues.

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- Manawatu Standard

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