Pubdate: Thu, 09 Jun 2011
Source: Otago Daily Times (New Zealand)
Copyright: 2011 Allied Press Limited


Experts will be asked to estimate just how much cannabis a Dunedin
pensioner may have been able to harvest from the 200 small plants
growing in his bathroom last year.

Maurice David Didham (72) was to have been sentenced in the High Court
at Dunedin yesterday after pleading guilty to cultivating cannabis and
possessing 657g of dried cannabis for supply.

But Justice Geoffrey Venning, of Auckland, remanded him on bail and
delayed the sentencing until August 3 so further information could be
obtained on the potential yield from the young plants.

Police officers found the plants growing in soil in the bathroom of
Didham's rented house in August last year. They were on a heat pad and
underneath a single light with a reflector.

They estimated the potential yield at $1200 per plant, or $240,000.
The seriousness of the charges and the high value of the potential
yield led to a district court judge declining to sentence Didham in
March and sending him to the High Court.

Didham contacted the Otago Daily Times last month to challenge the
police figure, estimating the plants would produce about 600g in
total, worth about $6000.

Didham's counsel, Helgi Henderson, yesterday said if no agreement on
yield could be reached before August 3, it might be necessary to hold
a disputed facts hearing on that day.

Appearing for the Crown, Richard Smith said the estimates were "so far
apart", the Crown intended to havethe evidence reviewed.

Opinion would also be sought on whether 200 plants could be grown to
full size in a small bathroom, Mr Smith said.

Justice Venning said the potential yield "may well have been

"If a realistic approach is taken by police, this may well be able to
be resolved by August 3. I hope that is the case."

It was "unfortunate" the issue had not been raised in February, when
Didham pleaded guilty to the charges, Justice Venning said.

After the hearing, cannabis law reformer Abe Gray said the remand was
a "victory".

"This is success for the protesters and for Mr Didham. If we hadn't
got involved, he might have been sent to prison for five years."

Mr Gray was one of about 20 people associated with the Otago
University branch of the National Organisation for the Reform of
Marijuana Laws (Norml) protesting outside the law courts building yesterday.

Lighting was the "limiting factor" for plant growth and Mr Gray said
it would have been "impossible" for Didham to harvest $240,000 worth
of cannabis from plants grown under a single 250W light bulb.

If the police "had stuck to the facts", Didham would have been
appropriately sentenced in the district court, Mr Gray said.

"He is just an old guy, minding his own business, mostly. The police
shouldn't be hyper-inflating potential yields so that people like him
get sent to the High Court for sentencing."

Norml would ask two of its own experts - a professor of horticulture
at Massey University and Dunedin-based drug policy analyst Dr Geoff
Noller - to supply affidavits to the court, he said.
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