Mother of eight caught with large cannabis crop

Paengaroa mother Renee Elizabeth Davis, 42, was sentenced in the Tauranga District Court on May 17 for illegal cannabis cultivation. Photo / File.

Paengaroa mother of eight has been described as a “pretty skilled gardener” after police found more than 300 plants inside a growing room set up at her property.

Renee Elizabeth Michelle Davis, 42, appeared for sentence in the Tauranga District Court on Friday, May 17, after she earlier pleaded guilty to a charge of cultivating cannabis.

The police summary of facts, released to the Bay of Plenty Times, says Renee’s arrest was part of a nationally run police operation called Operation Emerald centred around cannabis eradication.

During Operation Emerald, cannabis plots were identified on rural properties in the Bay of Plenty using fixed-wing planes and helicopters.

Several warrants were executed, including at Renee’s home in Gulliver Rd, Paengaroa on March 20 last year.

The summary of facts says one of the multiple sheds on the property contained all the equipment necessary to “grow cannabis discreetly”.

This included a grow tent, nutrient and salt meters, a heat mat, seedling trays, plantgrowing material, growing lights and discs, a temperature meter, an air filter, fume exhaust, a dehumidifier, a fan and a ballast.

Police searched the property for about eight hours and seized 48 mature plants, 49 juvenile plants, 213 seedlings, 3.63kg of high-quality cannabis head, a further 1.21kg and five large bags of cannabis leaf, 13.3 grams of seeds and $1150 in cash, the summary says.

Cannabis dealers and growers often deal in pounds lots (454g) which sell for between $3000 and $5000; or between $250 and $500 for 28g (an ounce); and a 1g tinfoil-packaged “tinny” sells for around $20, the police summary says.

Renee told the police the cannabis was hers and she occasionally got someone else to water the crop, the court heard.

Defence lawyer Sam Howell tells Judge Denise Clark the cannabis was not grown for commercial purposes but was for personal consumption that flowed from personal trauma in her life.

Sam says Renee was a mother of eight children, including being the carer of her oldest child who had significant ongoing health issues after an accident.

He says primarily based on Renee’s “quite significant” family responsibilities, her having stopped using cannabis, and the insight she had shown into offending, the appropriate sentence was community work and intensive supervision.

Police prosecutor Sergeant Richard van Arendonk says this offending was more serious than Howell had pitched, and argued home detention was the appropriate sanction given the sophisticated nature of the growing operation and the large amount of cannabis seized.

He also pointed out that Renee told the officers after her arrest she had been involved with cannabis over many years,

Judge Clark says she agreed home detention was the “least restrictive” sentence, noting Renee had a prior conviction for selling cannabis in 2002.

She says Renee’s explanation for why she had got involved in using cannabis was “trauma at home a long time ago” but had kept using the illegal drug beyond that.

“I know that in every other respect, you are doing everything that you need to be doing in a quite pro-social way. You have a large family and you are the person responsible for the home.

“You are a good gardener. I say that because there is a reference in the material I have about the produce you’re able to grow legally as being reasonably good.”

Judge Clark told Renee that the quantities of cannabis police found were “huge”.

“You have says this was the best seasonal harvest you’ve had. I think that also shows that you are pretty skilled at growing things. But this has gone way, way beyond what is okay.”

The judge says the fact Renee had stopped using cannabis after many years was a “big step” in her favour and a move she encouraged the accused to maintain.

The judge says the sentence of three-and-half months of home detention, to be followed by six months’ post-detention release conditions, was to hold Renee accountable after allowing discounts for her guilty plea, remorse and significant family and caring responsibilities.

Judge Clark ordered the permanent forfeiture of the $1150 cash found and the destruction of all growing equipment and cannabis.

Sandra Conchie is a senior journalist at the Bay of Plenty Times and Rotorua Daily Post who has been a journalist for 24 years. She mainly covers police, court and other justice stories, as well as general news. She has been a Canon Media Awards regional/community reporter of the year.

-Bay of Plenty Times

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