FIFO engineer builds marijuana hydro set up as ‘hobby’
A qualified engineer who built a hydroponic marijuana set up for a "hobby project" was planning to make oil for personal use.
Dion Wesley Hetherington, 41, pleaded guilty in Maroochydore Magistrates Court on Thursday to four charges, including producing and possessing dangerous drugs.
Police prosecutor Stu Lydford told the court police raided a Peachester property on March 11 where they found Hetherington at home with his wife and children.
"He immediately took police to the rear of the property, unlocked the padlock of the concrete water tank, which he had made look like a shed inside the tank," he said.
The court heard there was a hydroponic set up inside the shed, with four marijuana plants.
"He also showed detectives to the garage where he had some clipseal bags containing seeds," Senior Sergeant Lydford said.
He said Hetherington had set up the system a few months before to grow marijuana for recreational use.
Police also located a small amount of cocaine.
The court heard the total weight of marijuana was 655g.
"A significant fine may deter him from being a gardener in the future," Sen-Sgt Lydford said.
Hetherington's lawyer, Elizabeth Davey, said Hetherington was an electrical and instrumentation technician on a fly in, fly out basis for a service provider for a CSG company.
"He holds a number of qualifications as well, namely Certificate III in engineering," she said.
"Must have been a good set up then," magistrate Haydn Stjernqvist said.
The court heard Hetherington lived with his partner and two school-age children.
"In relation to the offence, Mr Hetherington's family have a history of prostate cancer - his father and two uncles have it," he said.
"Although Mr Hetherington has not tested positive, he instructs that around 12 months prior to the police raid he took an interest in medicinal benefits of cannabis oil to those and other conditions and began researching on how to grow his own cannabis for refinement into oil."
The court heard prior to this, Hetherington had not been a marijuana user.
"On why he went from not using to building his own hydro set up, he instructs that as an electrician the mechanical construction of the set up interested him as a hobby project," Ms Davey said.
"He purchased hydroponic equipment and bought 20 seeds online.
"He planted those in September 2019 and harvested four plants in December."
The court heard Hetherington was planning to refine the plants into oil and butter which were to be used for his personal use.
"In respect to the small quantity of cocaine, he instructs it was given to him by a friend at a Christmas party," Ms Davey said.
Ms Davey said the water tank was always padlocked so Hetherington's children couldn't get access to it and he was extremely remorseful and embarrassed for his actions.
Mr Stjernqvist said he would take into account that Hetherington had no previous criminal history and that there was no alleged commercial aspect.
He fined Hetherington $1300 for all offences with convictions not recorded.