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Gloucestershire Business News

Two businessmen set up cannabis farm in Cotswold industrial estate

Two West Midlands businessmen who got into financial difficulties during pandemic restrictions tried to solve their problems by setting up a cannabis farm on a small industrial estate in a Cotswold village, a court has been told.

Cheltenham Magistrates Court heard this week that Calvin Campbell, 26, of Mullett Street, Brierley Hill and Jake Evans, 26 of Ragees Road, Kingswinford, who run Cotswolds Window Tinting Ltd, took over the lease of a business unit in Blockley, Gloucestershire.

Prosecutor Sue Gethin said that on February 22, 2021, an engineer from Western Power arrived at the Northwick Park Business Centre in Brockley following reports of a fault in the complex. The fault was located to the rear of unit 74 that was being leased by Cotswolds Window Tinting Ltd.

"The unit was locked and unoccupied at the time - however the engineer detected a strong smell of cannabis coming from inside," said the prosecutor.

"The police were called and assisted the engineer in gaining entry to the property. The police officers discovered a substantial and well-constructed cannabis growing operation in progress that featured 60 nearly full sized plants that were near to the end of the flowering stage, along with a number of smart control devices and cameras as well as harvesting equipment.

"The cannabis farm consisted of three growing rooms, two of which appeared to be purpose built structure with an irrigation system set up and third was located in the kitchen.

"The officers also found evidence of a previous crop of cannabis having been produced at the unit by the large amount of plant waste.

"The police were told by another unit holder that a black vehicle had been hovering about and was showing more than a passing interest in what was going on. The police investigated the CCTV and found that this was a Mercedes vehicle belonging to Evans.

"A number of parcels located at the unit were addressed to Evans, along with a recent invoice in his name."

The court was told that while a team of officers dismantled the cannabis farm the next day, both Campbell and Evans handed themselves into the police.

A drug expert stated that the potential value of the crop if sold in street deals was worth between £16,800 and £50,400.

The expert stated that if 24 cannabis plant root balls were included, the total value would be worth between £23,500 and £70,500. He concluded that this was a commercial operation and had been set up for significant financial gain.

Andrew Wakeman, defending both Campbell and Evans, said: "The men had set up a legitimate company and had taken on the lease of the unit in July 2020. However, they quickly found themselves in financial difficulties and in a bid to try and obtain money to sustain their legitimate business they set up the cannabis operation.

"They did not take on the premises initially with the objective of setting up a cannabis growing operation.

"Both Campbell and Evans accepted full responsibility of the cannabis operation when by handing themselves into police."

Both men pleaded guilty to producing a class B drug in Blockley on February 22, 2021.

District Judge Nicholas Wattam said that his sentencing powers were not sufficient and he committed the men to Gloucester Crown Court to be sentenced on March 17. Campbell and Evans were released on unconditional bail until that date.

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