A TRUCK driver who used a sophisticated hydroponics set-up to grow cannabis has been fined $40,000.
Nanjing Night Net

Colin Cameron, 48, of Marlee Court, Terang, pleaded guilty in the Warrnambool Magistrates Court yesterday to cultivating cannabis for the purposes of trafficking.

Magistrate Ian von Einem said it would have been simple task to hand down a suspended jail sentence.

But he said there needed to be a clear message sent to the community that those caught growing cannabis would be disadvantaged financially.

The magistrate said Cameron had potentially been involved in a substantial operation and the community needed to realise the impact such drug production could have on people with mental health issues.

“This is an industry that needs to be deterred. I think this is one way to deter people,” Mr von Einem said.

Police executed a search warrant on February 24 last year at a Terang house in the company of Mr Cameron’s wife.

In the hallway police located a locked door, which they forced open.

Mrs Cameron did not know what was in the room as the house was being renovated, the court heard.

Police found a sophisticated hydroponics cannabis growing set-up. There were six large plants 1.5cms high.

The hydroponics system was described as of a high standard and included lights, a water system, timers and wire supports for the plants which very healthy.

Another 11 plants, between 30cm and 40cm tall, were found in another room.

In the garage there were a further 14 plants up to 90cm tall.

Police also found vacuum packaging equipment and scales. There were also drying racks in the roof cavity, one pound of cannabis and cameras and surveillance equipment.

There were 31 plants seized by police with a total weight of 5.63 kilograms.

Security camera footage showed Cameron entering rooms to water plants.

During a police interview Cameron admitted to growing the cannabis, but said he was not a user and it was the first time he had grown the plants.

The court heard that the home, which Cameron was not living in while it was being renovated, was using three times the average electricity consumption.

Cameron admitted to growing the cannabis for three months.

An expert estimated the yield from the plants would be between 1.7kgs and 3.2kgs and the value of the crop was $25,000.

Prosecutor Raeleene Maxwell said a restraining order had been placed on the property until a pecuniary penalty compensation order of $25,000 was paid.

Defence counsel Pat McComish said Cameron had “inherited” the set-up and had only put $800 into the system. He said the circumstances were unique and claimed Cameron had not thought about what he was going to do with the cannabis he was growing. Mr McComish said there was no evidence of trafficking and his client did not fit the mould of a drug trafficker.

Magistrate Ian von Einem said it was clearly a fairly sophisticated set-up. He said Cameron was not a drug user, he had a set-up valued at thousands of dollars and it was hard to resist an inference of what Cameron was going to do with the cannabis.

Mr McComish said Cameron had intended to renovate the house but as an interstate truck driver had limited chance to undertake the work.

He said Cameron found a tenant to live at the property rent free in return for doing some work. The defence counsel said that arrangement last 12 months and work included the removal of a chimney, knocking down walls and stripping off paint.

Mr McComish said Cameron was unhappy with the work progress, the tenant moved out and his client then found the hydroponics equipment in the home. He said Cameron then decided to have a go at growing cannabis. Mr McComish said it was not a sophisticated operation as Cameron filmed himself tending to the plants and had looked up a beginner’s manual for growing cannabis.

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