Image via Wikipedia"Switched on Gardener" gone to pot - police now need to put forward a strong case...
Warren Brookbanks, Auck Uni, says cannabis case involving 250 people will be complex but police have taken time to gather enough evidence
A law expert says the criminal case against a nationwide garden store facing more than 700 drugs charges will be complex when it gets to court.
Police raided 16 branches of the Switched on Gardener, charging 250 people with a raft of drugs charges. Directors and managers of the companies have been arrested and will be facing charges including cultivating cannabis and participating in an organised criminal group. It is alleged that cannabis growing equipment was sold at the stores to commercial growers. The arrests follow a two year investigation.
Deputy Commissioner Rob Pope says the bust will break the cornerstone of the illicit cannabis cultivation industry.
"Cannabis is the most abused controlled drug in New Zealand. The harm that this drug causes New Zealand communities can be conservatively estimated at $430 million a year. It hurts every community in every part of the country.?
Mr Pope says undercover officers purchased equipment, were given advice on how to grow cannabis and even purchased cannabis clones and other drugs over the counter. Police also seized methamphetamine, LSD, ecstasy and firearms.
Prof Warren Brookbanks from Auckland University says even though the case will be complex, it is not unknown territory for police.
"I imagine there will be a lot of criminal litigation arising out of this as the individuals defend the charges. They will be charged with a wide range of different offences under the Drugs Act."
Mr Brookbanks believes police have taken their time to gain sufficient evidence.
The Police Minister is praising good old fashion detective work for the exposure of the ring. Judith Collins says it has been a long hard slog for those involved.
"I'm very pleased with the fact that police have been able to bring the matter to such a successful conclusion in terms of the investigation, which involved a lot of undercover work."
Ms Collins says the number of arrests and charges shows how deeply these activities have affected communities.