A SENIOR judge has suggested that so much skunk cannabis is being grown in this country that it is now being exported abroad.
Judge Jonathan Durham Hall, QC made the comment as he sentenced a Huddersfield shopkeeper to two years in jail for allowing a sophisticated cannabis factory to be set up in an unoccupied first floor flat adjoining his premises.
Officers from the Serious Organised Crime Agency raided the location of the factory at Helme Lane off-licence and convenience store in Helme in June 2011 and discovered 265 plants being cultivated using state-of-the-art equipment in four rooms.
Bradford Crown Court heard that the skunk cannabis was being grown on a 12-week cycle and the operation could have produced about six-and-a-half kilos of the drug every three months with a wholesale value of about £24,000.
The court also heard that it was costing about £1,000 a month in electricity to power the equipment being used in the flat.
When officers searched the shop they also found £30,000 being kept in an under-floor safe which was hidden by a drinks fridge.
Shamed shopkeeper Sansar Singh Kang, 33, a father-of-three, was yesterday jailed after he admitted allowing his premises to be used for cultivating cannabis and concealing criminal property.
The court heard on Wednesday that Kang, who had no previous convictions, had been struggling financially at the time he agreed to let the flat be used for growing the drugs.
Judge Durham Hall also sentenced 25-year-old Jonathan Smith, of Lockbridge Way, Milnsbridge, to two years in jail after he pleaded guilty to being involved in the production of the cannabis in the flat and a much smaller number of plants at a different location a few months later.
Smith had helped take items to the flat and had also been involved in watering and feeding the plants on four occasions.
Judge Durham Hall said the case involved a significant hydroponic operation capable of producing almost industrial quantities of high-strength skunk cannabis for commercial use.
“Factories or premises that are producing skunk cannabis are now being discovered all the time,” said the judge.
“The situation is approaching out of control. As I understand it such is the scale of production in this country that we are exporting skunk cannabis to others.”
He told Kang, of Tithefields, Fenay Bridge, that he had fallen far short of his usual high standards.