Pet and garden store operator who used store’s equipment to run ‘sophisticated’ cannabis ring grounded

Kane and Joanna McNeill of Pet and Garden Supplies (which will be renamed HydroGarden) outside Christchurch District Court after a previous appearance.  Kane was back in court Tuesday after Joanna's charges were dropped.

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Kane and Joanna McNeill of Pet and Garden Supplies (which will be renamed HydroGarden) outside Christchurch District Court after a previous appearance. Kane was back in court Tuesday after Joanna’s charges were dropped.

A pet and garden supply store operator who used his horticultural expertise and store equipment to operate an “sophisticated” cannabis ring will serve seven months house arrest.

Kane McNeill, 31, was among five people arrested for growing and supplying cannabis in June 2020 after police seized about 200 plants and assets — including residential and commercial properties, vehicles, jet skis, a trailer and cash — in the area valued at more than $2.5 million.

He appeared before Judge Michael Crosbie at Christchurch District Court on Tuesday for sentencing on three charges of possession, supply and cultivation of cannabis.

In a letter to the court, McNeill said he was ashamed of his actions and had “completely changed my life” by distancing myself from bad influences and previous associates, and was determined to continue doing so with the expected birth of his first child in the near future.

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Crown prosecutor Courtney Martyn, while noting the seriousness of McNeill’s offence, acknowledged that since his initial arrest in 2020 he “has done everything possible to recover from his cannabis addiction and offense”.

Defense attorney Kerry Cook said McNeill understood his offense and acknowledged its seriousness. Negative drug tests presented to the court in December and last week showed his commitment to staying on a clean path. This was accepted by all parties.

Kane McNeill used his horticultural expertise and pet and garden equipment to set up an elaborate cannabis ring.  (file photo)

John Kirk-Anderson/stuff

Kane McNeill used his horticultural expertise and pet and garden equipment to set up an elaborate cannabis ring. (file photo)

On May 27, 2020, following a search warrant, police found a large cannabis cultivation area on a property off Ferry Rd, where some pet and gardening equipment was found. McNeill was spotted several times by police visiting the property, according to court documents.

On June 16, 2020, a smaller grower run by a friend of McNeill’s was found at an address on Simeon Street. McNeill gave his friend seedlings, equipment and advice on how to properly manage the grow to ensure it thrives.

McNeill and his associates left varying amounts of cannabis in mailboxes or brought it to properties for money, the court heard. When police searched his address, several cannabis plants were found at various stages of maturity.

McNeill, through his attorney Kerry Cook, suggested that he could use his horticultural expertise to benefit the community in the future.

In his sentencing statement, Judge Michael Crosbie said the “relatively sophisticated operation” arose from McNeill’s own cannabis addiction and morphed into selling it to others.

McNeill nodded in agreement in the dock as the judge explained he had no control over who received his cannabis once it left his hands and could easily have ended up with “young and impressionable people”.

Judge Crosbie accepted that he had taken significant steps to prevent his re-offending or recidivism and sentenced him to seven months house arrest with the possibility of that becoming a community supervisory sentence after half-term.

McNeill and his mother, Joanna, run a pet and gardening business that was part of several properties raided as part of the 2020 police investigation.

According to court documents, Joanna owned 99 percent of the business.

Shortly after his arrest in June 2020, McNeill told Stuff He was “shocked” when police banged loudly on the door of his home and told him they had a search warrant.

Little did he know he’d been under surveillance for weeks.

“They think I sell tons of weed… and make tons of money, but I don’t,” he said things a week after the arrest.

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