Cannabis ‘researcher’ facing possible jail term

A Christchurch man who claims he was researching how to grow cannabis to get work in the medical marijuana industry in Australia is in custody awaiting sentencing in January.

Nari I-Yuan Chou, 32, of Bishopdale, pleaded guilty to the charge of cultivating cannabis and the Christchurch District Court was told 247 plants were found growing at the Stanmore Road house.

The Fire Service had gone to the house because water had been seen leaking from the home and running down the driveway. They got access to deal with the water leak, and found the drug operation.

Judge Michael Crosbie remanded Chou in custody for sentencing on January 16 and asked for a pre-sentence report that will assess his suitability for home detention.

However, he granted him a hearing on Tuesday that will decide whether he is released on bail pending sentencing. Judge Crosbie asked that the police provide photographs of the growing operation for that hearing, as well as estimates of the crop yield and the market value.

Defence counsel Rupert Ward asked for the bail hearing, telling Judge Crosbie that it was a unique situation with Chou growing the cannabis to research the different types of plant and how they responded to various soil types.

Chou told police that he was doing research with the intention of obtaining work as a grower with a medical marijuana research company in Australia.

Police prosecutor Sergeant Kathy Pomfrett said: “He said he had not sold any of the cannabis that he had harvested, explaining that he had recycled the cannabis material by composting it for worm feed, to obtain a fertiliser specifically tailored to producing a higher quality cannabis.”

After the Fire Service reported their find, the police found four growing tents inside the house in Stanmore Road, which Chou rents and where he is the sole user.

The tents had special lighting, extractor fans and charcoal filters. The fans and filters were ducted into the ceiling space.

The lighting and irrigation systems were connected to timing systems to simulate the cycle of day and night, and could be pre-set for the season that Chou was trying to simulate.

The irrigation system was pumping controlled amounts of nutrients and fertilisers.

The police found 247 plants and 100 seeds, some of them packaged and labelled according to the strain they were expected to produce.

Mr Ward said Chou was a husband and father with good references. His family was well off and had no need to make “quick money”. He was seeking work as a quantity surveyor.

Judge Crosbie said the growing operation was so big and so sophisticated that Chou may be sentenced to a jail term. “Personal circumstances count for very little in this type of offending,” he said, remanding Chou in custody.

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