Friends set up cannabis farms in cellars

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Two friends built cannabis farms in their homes on a commercial industrial scale, a judge at Burnley Crown Court has ruled.

John Cartlidge grew it at Rhoda Street and in Walton Lane, Nelson, and John Bamber grew his at his home in Brunshaw Road, Burnley.

Both appeared before Judge Jonathan Gibson on a trial of issue. They admitted being concerned in the cultivation of cannabis, but said it was not a commercial operation. Questioned individually, both said they were not working together or were part of a larger conspiracy. In all, Cartlidge had 1,000 plants and Bamber 500.

Judge Gibson said he accepted some of what the men told him about their activities, but not all of it. He warned them he may send both of them to jail and remanded them on bail for reports. They will be sentenced on May 7th.

Semi-skilled furniture maker Bamber was much more successful than Cartlidge with his growing. He accepted he was growing it commercially, had a buyer and his set-up meant he could grow it from cuttings to the finished item. Like Cartlidge, he was also in debt. He said he expected to make between £5,000 and £10,000. He denied prosecutor Stephen Parker’s assertion he would have made more than £100,000.

He grew the plants in the cellar and dried them in the attic. He bought his equipment from a shop in Burnley and followed advice given at the shop and from what he gleaned from books.

The court was told Bamber adopted the Sea of Green technique to get money to pay off his debts. It was unusual, but established, producing smaller plants but, at eight weeks, much more quickly than the standard technique taking 13 to 14 weeks, and giving a low yield but high turnover crop.

However, Bamber said he was not growing the plants to move them and did not have a van to do it. Initially, Bamber told police he grew the cannabis for his own use, but in court said that was untrue, and he said it because he panicked.

The 500 plants in the cellar were from 12 original mother plants, and although he did have a buyer, no price had been agreed. The set-up, which included ducting into a chimney breast in the cellar, had cost £600 and, he told the court, he intended to sell the cannabis for a profit to pay off loans, a credit card, mortgage arrears and council tax debts.

Cartlidge lived in Rhoda Street but went to “work” at the house in Walton Lane to keep up the appearance he was still in the building trade. In reality, the firm with which he was associated had gone into liquidation, his houses were being repossessed and he was near a mental breakdown. Judge Gibson said the houses would have been repossessed before a crop matured.