$1m synthetic cannabis operation results in jail time

A ROTORUA man involved in a million-dollar-plus commercial synthetic cannabis operation has successfully argued for a reduction in his 18-month prison sentence.

In July Mark Hartley Moore, 40, was sentenced in the Rotorua District Court on three counts of possessing a psychoactive substance for the purpose of supply and one count of selling a psychoactive substance.

Judge Philip Cooper described the offending as widespread and commercial in nature. A total of 2670 grams of banned psychoactive substances, valued up to $53,000, was found in Moore’s storage shed and at his home address.

Judge Cooper said mobile phone data revealed Moore was selling synthetic cannabis on a daily basis.

He was charged along with Rotorua business owner David Ronald Young and 32-year-old Lehi Danielle Nohokotahi Pehi.

Young was the owner of Rotorua store Skingraft, which sold synthetic cannabis or legal highs until they were banned in May last year.

The trio were arrested after more than $900,000 worth of cash and illegal products, including synthetic cannabis, were seized by police during searches at eight Rotorua addresses.

The searches by about 50 police officers uncovered more than $150,000 in cash, more than $1 million worth of illegal products, as well as ammunition and methamphetamine.

In sentencing Moore, Judge Cooper said Moore had little remorse or insight into his offending, its consequences and impact on others.  

He said the offending involved significant commerciality and anything less than a term of imprisonment would not meet the sentencing needs of the case.

Moore appealed the 18-month prison sentence on the grounds it was ‘manifestly excessive’ in the light of the prescribed maximum penalty and his overall culpability.

In reaching a decision on Moore’s appeal, Justice Brewer found that he was not entitled to a discount for previous good character or the fact that prior to his offending he had taken in a number of teenage boys as foster children.

Moore had argued that taking in foster kids was a way to pay back society for his own wrongs.

However, Justice Brewer said it would not be unduly cynical to observe that given Moore was dealing in synthetic cannabis he might not be the best role model.

But in substituting the 18-month term of imprisonment to 10 months, Justice Brewer said Moore was entitled to a discount of 25 per cent for pleading guilty to the four charges as soon as possible.

He rejected a bid to commute the prison sentence to one of home detention, saying Moore was a successful mid-level dealer in synthetic cannabis and it would not be appropriate to have him on the streets.


cookStephen Cook is a multi award winning journalist and former news editor and assistant editor of the Herald on Sunday.


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