Man grew cannabis to pay off gambling debt

A cannabis producer was found ‘red handed’ with plants worth more than £16,000, which he had been growing to settle a gambling debt, a court heard.

Police officers discovered 36 mature plants – some up to five feet tall – when they searched Lee Chambers’ Walsall home.

The 33-year-old has been given a suspended prison sentence, after pleading guilty to cannabis production.

Mr David Lees, prosecuting at Wolverhampton Crown Court, said police who searched the property also found eight heat lamps, three fans and eight transformers, all used for growing the class B drug in a converted room.

He said the potential yield for one crop was 1.62kg, amounting to 4.86kg over the course of a year. The value of the plants would have been between £6,500 and £8,500 if sold in bulk, or £16,200 if sold in one gram deals, he said.

Mr Lees said police had been visiting the block of flats in Willenhall Street, Darlaston, on other business when they came across the plants on October 31 last year.

“Whilst present, the police could smell a strong smell of cannabis emanating from the defendant’s home address,” Mr Lees said.

“They obtained later the same day a warrant from the magistrates’ court and returned.”

Chambers was arrested and admitted to police that the plants were his, also telling them he needed to sell the cannabis to settle a £15,000 gambling debt, Mr Lees told the court.

Mr Lees said: “He was quite candid and said he was going to sell the cannabis to anyone who wanted it for cash.”

Mr Patrick Currie, defending, said his client had been caught ‘red handed’ but said he pleaded guilty at the first opportunity.

“He didn’t try in any way to pass the blame onto anyone else and he was the only person involved,” he added.

Chambers, who now lives with his mother in Durham Place, Walsall, was given a 14-month sentence suspended for two years, along with a three-month curfew, monitored by an electronic tag. He was also ordered to pay £200 costs.

Sentencing him, Judge Nicholas Webb said: “On October 31 last year you were caught red handed in the production of cannabis.

“The set-up was professional, all the necessary equipment was in place.”