4 Dec 2012

Jury told to set aside views on cannabis laws

12:03 am on 4 December 2012

Members of a jury deciding the fate of five businessmen accused of operating a one-stop shop for cannabis equipment has been told not to let their beliefs on New Zealand's drug laws get in the way of their verdicts.

Michael Quinlan, Peter Bennett, Andrew Mai, Paul Barlow and Ricky Cochrane are on trial at Auckland District Court accused of participating in an organised criminal group and selling equipment to grow cannabis.

The five men hold various management positions in retail chain Switched on Gardener.

During the nine-week trial, the jury has heard conversations secretly recorded by undercover police officers, which the Crown said proved Switched on Gardener was a one stop cannabis equipment retailer.

The defence says the business was not a criminal enterprise, and while staff may have been acting illegally, the managers were not.

In summing up the case, Judge Andree Wiltens told the jury not to allow their personal opinions on cannabis laws get in their way of delivering verdicts on the 108 charges faced by the defendants and the company.

He says their verdicts must be based on current New Zealand legislation, not what they want the law to be.

The jury deliberated for four hours on Monday afternoon, before retiring for the night.