1 Oct 2012

Cannabis gear allegedly sold at gardening stores

6:30 pm on 1 October 2012

A court has been told that a hydroponics retail chain was operating illegally as a one-stop shop selling materials, equipment and even a how-to guide for growing cannabis indoors.

The company, Switched on Gardener, trades under the name Stoneware 91.

Its owner, Michael Quinlan, and four company managers are on trial in the Auckland District Court facing dozens of drug-related charges and charged with benefitting from crime. All have pleaded not guilty.

They were arrested more than two years ago when police swooped on dozens of hydroponic stores - including 16 Switched on Gardener shops - in Auckland, Bay of Plenty, Waikato, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin.

Police say they seized more than 6000 indoor-grown cannabis plants, illegal firearms, methamphetamine, LSD and Ecstasy, and made more than 200 arrests.

The Crown says 25 Switched on Gardener staff members have already admitted selling equipment knowing it would be used to grow cannabis.

But a defence lawyer says the company was not a criminal enterprise and strictly forbade selling equipment used for illegal activity.

The trial is expected to take two months.

Another company, Hydroponics Wholesale, is also defending drug charges.