When searching for a missing person, police in Wales stumbled across a cannabis factory in a disused ward of Whitchurch Hospital in Cardiff. The main building had been boarded up and disused for many years.
The Mirror reported that the operation was ‘sophisticated’ in that there were UV lights and ventilators in order to aid the growing process.
Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 s 6(2) created the offence of cultivation of a cannabis plant. It’s maximum sentence is 14 years’ imprisonment.
There were 30 plants found, which the Mirror stated had an approximate street value of £32,000. The drugs offences guidelines assume a yield of 40g per plant, which would mean 30 plants produce approximately 1.2kilos of cannabis.
When applying the guidelines to production offences, the courts are required to assess the indicative output of the operation – not merely the amount of drugs actually found. That raises two issues.
First, a cannabis production operation is a ‘going concern’ and therefore producers can expect more than one crop per year. The value of the operation can therefore be much higher than indicated by a simple assessment of the plants that are found.
Second, it will be necessary to assess how long the operation has been running and therefore the amount of drugs that has already been produced and sold. This may be a little difficult to assess and will of course rely on there being evidence to support any assertion.
As described above, the process is more complex than simply adding up the amount of drugs found. additionally, depending on who (if anyone) is charged with this offence, the assessment of their role will be very important – the guidelines group offenders into lesser, significant and leading roles for the purpose of determining sentence.
Category 3 (based on 28 plants) starting points:
Lesser – High level community order
Significant – 1 year
Leading role – 4 years
We’ll update you if/when we hear about any developments. Let’s hope the police don’t make a hash of the investigation (sorry).