Hefty fine but no prison on cannabis charges

Thursday March 10, 2016 Written by Published in Crime

A 56 year old man escaped imprisonment but was fined $900 when he appeared on two cannabis changes at the Cook Islands High Court on March 7.


Graham Murchie appeared before Judge Justice Dame Judith Potter on one count of cultivation of cannabis and of possession of cannabis.

Justice Potter said that according to the Narcotics and Misuse of Drugs Act 2004, the maximum penalty for cannabis cultivation was 20 years’ imprisonment, while the penalty for cannabis possession was two years’ imprisonment.

The court heard that on August 3 police received information concerning cannabis being grown on a certain location.

Police went to a property next to Murchie’s residence in Titikaveka and  found eight cannabis plants growing in pot plants around the sides of his residence.

They also found a further 56 cannabis plants at various locations on the neighbouring section as well as a plastic bag inside a cardboard box containing about 211 grams of dried cannabis.

Justice Potter said Murchie had admitted planting and caring for the cannabis. He said he smoked cannabis on a daily basis, about six to seven times a day, and admitted that the dried cannabis belonged to him.

In mitigation, Murchie’s lawyer Mark Short said that the defendant was remorseful and had apologised before the court.

He said the defendant had never before appeared in court on a criminal offence and had entered an early guilty plea. He had also taken responsibility for his actions from the time of the charge by attending counselling.

A Probation Services report said Murchie had been drug-free from the time he had been charged and that he had a good relationship with the community and his family. Murchie no doubt regretted the situation and knew his actions has been upsetting for his family.

Justice Potter said the charge of cultivating cannabis was a serious offence and unfortunately however one viewed the matter, the decriminalisation of cannabis even for medical purposes was not likely to happen soon, and the defendant needed to deal with his addiction.

“This is a category one offence and Murchie narrowly escaped prison sentence as I have taken in the relevant mitigating factors of early guilty pleas and remorse. I do not, therefore, propose to impose a prison sentence but there will be no second chances.”

On the charge of cultivation Justice Potter sentenced Murchie to a fine of $900 with 12 months’ probation. Murchie was ordered to abstain from consumption or any involvement - direct or indirect, with prohibited drugs other then prescribed drugs and not to leave the country without the High Court’s approval.

On the second charge Murchie was also sentenced to 12 months’ probation to be served concurrently with his other sentence.

Justice Potter also made an order for the destruction of the cannabis material.

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