It is reported that approximately 1,500 cannabis plants were discovered with a street value of about $5.8 million after police investigations uncovered 9 hydroponic cannabis cultivation homes across Sydney, after an investigation had commenced in May following a tip-off from a neighbour.

The investigation revealed a sophisticated network that has been operating numerous hydro homes.

As a result, police have arrested a 44-year-old man, Van Dung Nguyen and a 27-year-old woman, Hue Hong Phan who police believe were the middle-level managers in the syndicate with the predominant role of overseeing others who would tend the plantation inside the hydroponic homes.

Nguyen and Phan were subsequently charged with cultivating commercial quantity of cannabis plants, in addition to participating in a criminal group and using electricity without authority.

They both appeared before the Local Court Magistrate at Bankstown Local Court last week on Tuesday when bail was not applied for and formally refused by the Court.

They will both appear next at the Bankstown Court on 15 October when the matter is likely to be further adjourned for the prosecution to serve their evidence.

It is unclear at this stage whether a bail application will be made by the two.

Among the homes searched were 3 to 4 bed-room houses valued at over $1.5 million with windows blacked out.

Police allege that 9 grow houses were discovered in rented residential premises, including Epping, Eastwood, West Ryde, and south-west Sydney which were all allegedly manipulated in a way to steal power from the electricity grid.

Police believe the grow houses have been operating for many months, with links to other kinds of organised crime.

Detective Acting Superintendent Michael Cook is reported saying, “Cannabis is the jet fuel of organised crime”.

“We have seen money raised in this process being diverted into the importation of illicit drugs and precursors and used in the establishment of clandestine drug laboratories.”

What are the Penalties for Cultivating Cannabis Plants at a Commercial Quantity in NSW?

The penalties for cultivating cannabis plants in NSW largely depend on the quantity of plants and whether it was cultivated by enhanced indoor means or outside.

It is strongly recommended to speak with a drug lawyers if facing these charges for proper guidance.

Our drug lawyers from Sydney appear across all courts who are happy to provide you a free consultation.

The following penalties concern commercial quantities of cultivating cannabis plants:

  • The maximum penalty is 15-years imprisonment and/or $385,000 fine for:
    • Cultivating a commercial quantity of cannabis plants by enhanced indoor means; or
    • Cultivating a commercial quantity of cannabis plants by enhanced indoor means for commercial purpose; or
    • Cultivating a commercial quantity of cannabis plants other than by enhanced indoor means (outside).

The quantities prescribed for cultivating cannabis plants outside are different to those that are cultivated by enhanced indoor means, as follows:

  • The commercial quantity for cannabis plants cultivated by enhanced indoor means if 50 to 199.
  • The commercial quantity for cannabis plants cultivated outside is 250 to 999.

The above is reflected in section 33 Drug Misuse and Trafficking Act 1985 (NSW).

Cultivating here includes watering cannabis plants, planting, nurturing, harvesting or growing them. It can include steps you take or cause to be taken in the process of doing any of these things.

Cultivating by enhanced indoor means here means to cultivate the cannabis plants inside a building or home by using artificial heat or lighting, spraying nutrient solutions or to nurture the plants in nutrient enriched water.

Doing this for a commercial purpose means to cultivate the plant with the intention to sell it or to sell any of its products, or where you cultivate it with the belief that someone else intend to do the same.

Some defences to the charge of cultivating cannabis plants in NSW include:

  1. You cultivated plants under an honest belief that you didn’t know nor suspect that it was a prohibited plant in circumstances you couldn’t reasonably be expected to have known or suspected they were prohibited plants; or
  2. In the case of charges of cultivating for a commercial purpose, you will be ‘not guilty’ if you had not intention to sell them and you weren’t aware that someone else has/had that intention either; or
  3. In the case of charges of cultivating for enhanced indoor means, you will be ‘not guilty’ if the cultivation took place outside; or
  4. The plants were in your possession under a prescription from a qualified doctor, nurse, dentist, vet or midwife.

Please direct any questions you have by contacting our friendly team of criminal lawyers. We have 8 offices across the state and travel to all courts specialising in drug law.

AUTHOR Jimmy Singh

Mr. Jimmy Singh is the Principal Lawyer at Criminal Defence Lawyers Australia - Leading Criminal Lawyers in Sydney, Delivering Exceptional Results in all Australian Criminal Courts.

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