Cannabis equipment supplier walks free

The owner of a Christchurch garden supply business busted selling equipment for cultivating cannabis has walked free from court. Cashmere’s Joanna Mary McNeill, 36, company director of Fitzgerald Ave-based Pet and Garden Supplies, today pleaded guilty to two counts of supplying material for growing the class C drug in the Christchurch District Court sitting at the Maori Land Court. She was ordered to donate $1000 to the City Mission and granted a conditional discharge due to her clean record and efforts to change the culture of the business. Pet and Garden Supplies was one of 35 businesses and homes raided throughout the country in April last year, as part of undercover Operation Lime.

Police made 250 arrests relating to more than 700 charges. Five Christchurch-based suppliers were among those arrested, including McNeill and her son. McNeill’s lawyer, Jonathan Eaton, told Judge David Saunders that McNeill had inherited a business with an established drug culture. She had worked hard to address that, ensuring all customers presented photo identification before making a purchase, he said. At a previous hearing in May McNeill had been ordered to keep a register of customers who bought specific gardening gear, which was proving a barrier to her livelihood. “She had to get photo identification, even of grandmas’ buying pet food for their dogs,” Eaton said.

Judge Saunders said he agreed McNeill had ”inherited a business that already has something of a culture”. “One of the charges came about as you were in a position, as the owner/manager, where you were not directly involved in selling the items. In a way, you have been caught by that position. However, you did sell a small amount of nutrient,” he said. McNeil was ordered to pay a $1000 donation to the City Mission, to assist people recovering from drug and alcohol addiction. She was also ordered to pay $500 court costs. Pet and Garden Supplies sales assistant Michael Ross, 31, also appeared before Judge Saunders. He pleaded guilty to nine charges, including selling cannabis, and equipment to cultivate it.

Ross was remanded on bail to a Woolston address. He will be sentenced next month. The two-year Operation Lime targeted businesses and individuals responsible for the commercial sale of equipment used in the growing of cannabis. The search warrants included 16 branches and the distribution centre of a major national supplier of indoor growing supplies, Switched on Gardener. In October two staff members at Christchurch’s Switched On Gardener on Buckleys Rd were sentenced to charges under Operation Lime. Glenn Kelly, 39, was jailed for six months, while Tarquinn Home, 30, was sentenced to 120 hours’ community service.

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