Cannabis-case bail change spares 'little old grandma'

By Jared Savage

Last month, police raided Switched On Gardener branches throughout New Zealand. Photo / Bay of Plenty Times
Last month, police raided Switched On Gardener branches throughout New Zealand. Photo / Bay of Plenty Times

Bail conditions have been relaxed for the owner and staff members of a national indoor gardening chain charged with supplying equipment and advice to cannabis growers.

Last month, police raided Switched On Gardener branches throughout New Zealand, as well as other gardening stores, after a two-year undercover investigation codenamed Operation Lime.

Charges were laid against directors and staff at the 16 stores, which were allowed to keep trading as long as they followed strict bail conditions requested by police.

The court order required every customer to hand over identification and give their phone number, address and date of birth.

One judge, Peter Rollo of the Tauranga District Court, refused to impose the bail condition, describing the police submission as excessive and an unnecessary intrusion into the personal affairs of the public.

In Whangarei, justice of the peace Ryan Bruce also refused to impose the bail condition, despite police prosecutor Sergeant Graham Ford submitting that the Bail Act gave courts powers to impose conditions to ensure defendants did not reoffend on bail.

Judge David Harvey in the Auckland District Court has now removed that bail condition for Switched on Gardener franchise owner Mike Quinlan, which has a flow-on effect for all those charged as part of Operation Lime.

Quinlan could not be reached yesterday. He previously indicated he would appeal against the bail conditions because a "little old grandma" coming in "for a bag of potting mix" did not deserve to be interrogated.

While the bail conditions for Quinlan now mean customers no longer have to show ID, Crown prosecutor Ross Burns yesterday confirmed that Judge Harvey's decision had been appealed to the High Court.

Last month, police said Operation Lime would "break the cornerstone of the illicit cannabis cultivation industry".

Undercover officers allegedly bought equipment, were given advice on how to grow cannabis, and even bought cannabis and other drugs over the counter.

- NZ Herald

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