Man behind $200,000 cannabis operation caught up in 'the science' of growing
The man behind a high-end Christchurch cannabis operation estimated to be worth $200,000 believes success proved his downfall.
Police raided Jared Colwell's three-bedroom Avonhead home last year and discovered what they described as a "cannabis warehouse" inside.
They alleged about $200,000 worth of the drug was growing inside.
Colwell appeared before Judge Kevin Phillips in the Christchurch District Court on Thursday.
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Police withdrew a charge of possession of cannabis for supply, but Colwell was convicted on a charge of cultivating cannabis, which he had earlier pleaded guilty to. He was remanded on bail for sentencing on August 22.
The 54-year-old said the day after his arrest last June he started growing cannabis to help ease his knee pain. He had not wanted to buy drugs off gang members.
Speaking to Stuff on Thursday, Colwell said he should not be penalised.
"My main guilty side is just the fact I got too good at what I was doing, and got caught up in it – the science of it and the beauty of the plant. I miss growing it, like I've lost a child.
"I'm employed ... in the entire offending I wasn't on the dole. I've been persecuted for not being stupid. Isn't society looking at not being such a harsh thing?"
Colwell said he lived in the garage for eight years while looking after his legally blind mother until she was diagnosed with dementia and sent to a retirement home.
According to the summary of facts, Colwell transformed his house and garage into a "large scale" sophisticated hydroponic cannabis grow operation. The operation included industrial sized extractor fans, carbon filters, heat lamps and specialised equipment for the cultivation of cannabis.
The scale of the operation was large enough to require an average of more than $2000 worth of power a month, which Colwell paid in cash. Police estimated the amount of power Colwell used was what the average household used in one year.
Eighty-three cannabis cuttings were found growing in a rear room alongside fertilisers, growing instructions and growing equipment.
Also inside the house was a growing room with 55 near mature cannabis plants. The plants were growing under high intensity lamps, which were operated and controlled electronically through a mechanical timer.
An oscillating fan on the ceiling was connected to ducts that took air outside.
Four separate cannabis grows were found inside Colwell's garage, each consisting of numerous cannabis plants in different stages of growth.
The garage was used in a similar fashion to the rooms inside the house. Colwell had stored more than 150 bottles of fertiliser in a storage bay under the garage floor.
When spoken to by police, Colwell acknowledged the cannabis grow but declined to comment.
Police ordered all of the controlled drugs and associated growing equipment be destroyed.
Colwell, who said he worked as an artist, chef and a builder earlier told Stuff his house was "quite a artistic place", and contained pieces he had been collecting for 30 years.
He said he sold cannabis at a "reduced price" for medicinal purposes, to help pay for electricity and to get more equipment to keep the operation going, but it was not a "commercial operation".
"I'm no Mr Big," he said.