Man blames crime on ACC

A Woodville man jailed for growing more than 100 cannabis plants in an elaborate backyard concrete bunker claimed ACC forced him into it.

Joseph Riki Lahood, 47, suffers from a back injury after a workplace accident in 1984.

Lahood underwent spinal surgery and had since been receiving compensation from ACC.

"You explain that you grew cannabis to relieve your back pain because, you say, conventional medication made you aggressive," Justice Alan MacKenzie told the High Court in Palmerston North yesterday.

"You appear to blame ACC, saying they had you in a financial situation where you could not afford to buy cannabis."

Lahood claimed the cannabis was solely for his own use.

After receiving credit for a guilty plea he was jailed for two years and three months on a charge of cultivating cannabis.

Justice MacKenzie said police searched Lahood's property on March 20 and found four "mother plants" growing in the garden and four seedlings in pots on top of a dog kennel.

Police then noticed a piece of plywood on the ground between Lahood's garage and fence.

Upon lifting the plywood the officers found the entrance of a bunker dug underneath the garage's concrete floor.

"The bunker measured some 2.3 metres by 3m and was 1.7m high," Justice MacKenzie said."Within it police discovered a quite substantial cannabis growing operation."

There were three "mother plants" and 104 other plants.

The atmosphere was controlled by heat pumps, an extraction fan and an air vent. In the garage above there were 28 seedlings growing with the help of two heat pumps and a heating pad. In Lahood's kitchen police found three sets of electronic scales and zip-lock bags inside a safe, while in his living rooms there was a cannabis bong, a glass pipe and three tinnies.

"Text messages sent and received on your phone between March 13 and 19 show that you were involved in dealing cannabis," the judge told Lahood.

He ordered the destruction of all the cannabis and related equipment.

Manawatu Standard