Police have said they were “legally obliged” to carry out their operation this morning after evidence revealed items being sold in a city store were deemed illegal by law.
Two people – a 35-year-old man and a 25-year-old woman – have been arrested on suspicion of being concerned in the supply of class B drugs after police executed two search warrants this morning. The man has also been arrested on suspicion of money laundering.
Shortly after 7.30am officers from Plymouth police’s south and central CID and neighbourhood teams attended a flat in a residential property in Houndiscombe Road, Mutley, where they carried out a search.
Keys were acquired and officers carried out a further search of the Holy Smoke hut-like store which sits near the Voodoo Lounge club and the Jigsaw Garden.
Police have told Plymouth Live a four-figure sum of cash was seized from the residential property along with cultivation equipment including grow lamps, tents, trays and fertilizer.
Police revealed that a “substantial quantity of suspected cannabis” and other drug-related paraphernalia was also found at the property. A number of bottles of “e-liquid” purporting to contain “90 percent THC” have also been seized.
Detectives also seized a number of mobile phones, a laptop, a SUV Dodge Nitro vehicle and a quantity of documentation including invoices.
Scene of Crime Officers have also been at the property to carry out forensic examinations.
Officers also seized CCTV recording equipment from the Holy Smoke store, which is rented from the nearby Methodist Central Hall.
This morning’s operation was described as pre-planned and police have revealed it came about following analysis of herbal material recovered from juveniles arrest following a theft from the Holy Smoke store.
Insp Robin Loveridge, neighbourhood inspector for the city centre, told Plymouth Live the theft of bell jars containing herbal matter from the store was reported to police. Two juveniles were traced and the jar and its contents were recovered, but police took the step of having the material tested in a laboratory.
Insp Loveridge said: “It came back as positive for THC – we don’t look at percentages with regard to cannabis. In effect, it is a class B drug and our view was we have to investigate this as the suspected selling of a class B drug.
“We went to our force legal department for advice and looked at the Home Office guidelines on the matter.
“Officer from the neighbourhood team went to the store and spoke to the proprietor. He has produced a certificate which we passed to our force legal department.
“Home Office guidelines show that you have to have certain licences to grow cannabis. There are no licences to sell cannabis to the public.
“Our CID team has carried out the investigation and executed the search warrants and the neighbourhood policing teams will pick up the community fall-out from today’s operation.”
Insp Loveridge stressed the reason there appeared to be a large number of officers involved in what was considered a small and simple operation was because a number of the officers involved were undergoing training alongside tutor officers. He said the operation gave them opportunity to learn the process of a section 8 PACE [Police and Criminal Evidence Act] search warrant.
He added: “This was a pre-planned operation and had been in the planning stage for some time, certainly well before the article [about the Holy Smoke store] appeared on the Plymouth Live website.
“The article did not change our time frame for out action.
“We would like to point out at this stage that once evidence is gathered it will be passed to the Crown Prosecution Service for their decision about further action or disposal.”
In a further police statement, Det Con Pablo Beckhurst, who is leading the investigation, noted that under current law any substance which has any level of THC in it is an illegal substance under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.
He added that following with the Devon and Cornwall Police legal department “the issue is not so much what is on the packaging but rather what the substance contains, ie any THC.
“Some companies have been found to rely on the analysis from a third party from overseas – which may or may not relate to the sample being sold – and there is not way the police can realistically verify the reliability of the tester who appears to be overseas.
“Be that as it may, it is not a defence, even though sellers of these products believe it may be.
“A proportion of THC under the frequently mentioned 0.2 limit may justify an application for a licence to use the items in a commercial production sense – eg for the production of hemp fibre – but that is wholly different from saying you can possess or sell it as it has THC of under 0.2 percent.”
Plymouth City Council staff also joined police during the operation.
A council spokesperson said: “We are working with the police as part of a multi-disciplinary team, after two search warrants were executed this morning. We are gathering information and evidence about the use of the premise due to concerns about illegal activity.”