28 Apr 2010

Cannabis-raid firms allowed to keep trading

9:59 pm on 28 April 2010

The businesses caught up in Tuesday's nationwide drug raids will be allowed to continue trading, provided their files are open to access by the police.

Cracking down on the commercial sale of cannabis-growing equipment, police arrested 250 people and laid more than 700 charges.

All 16 branches and the distribution centre of the gardening retail chain Switched on Gardener were closed as part of the blitz.

But Deputy Police Commissioner Rob Pope says the accused can keep trading as long as photographic records of customers are kept alongside a register of sales.

Detective Inspector Stu Allsopp-Smith says it's a somewhat unusual move but police don't want to harm a company and its ability to trade.

Meanwhile, police say they've uncovered 23 more commercial indoor cannabis-growing operations and arrested seven more people as part of the raids.

An estimated 6000 cannabis plants have been seized since the raids began.

17 men appear in Auckland court

Seventeen men appeared in the Auckland District Court on Wednesday. The dozens of charge sheets mainly named the company Stoneware 91 Ltd, once registered as Switched On Gardener.

The men face charges including supplying equipment that can be used to grow cannabis, and being part of an organised criminal group. All were released on bail.

After the hearing, one of their lawyers said the company was wondering why police went undercover for two years when they could have gone through the front door and identified themselves.

'Waste of police resources'

Cannabis proponents meanwhile say the police operation has been a waste of resources.

The president of the National Organisation for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, Phil Saxby, says resources would have been better spent policing drink-drivers.

And a cannabis supporter, Dakta Green, says the resources put into the investigation would have been better spent investigating crimes like burglaries and child abuse.