Mom and son had family enterprise growing cannabis

Simon Brouder

A Rathmore mother and son continued to run a cannabis grow-house so they could pay off a mortgage after the death of their husband and father, who had set up the drug-growing operation to support his business.

Last week at Tralee Circuit Criminal Court, Owen O'Rourke (25) of Gortavehy, Rathmore, appeared before Judge Tom O'Donnell for sentencing having previously pleaded guilty to cannabis cultivation and the possession of the drug for sale and supply at the family's home in Rathmore on April 18, 2013.

The court heard that on that date gardaí arrived at the O'Rourke family home with a warrant. On arriving at the property they noticed a "strong smell" of cannabis coming from a shed, which they then investigated. 

In the shed, they found what was described as a "large-scale" cannabis-growing operation. 

The shed contained a quantity of harvested cannabis; there were 45 cannabis  plants growing under lights. Based on the typical value of full-grown cannabis plant, gardaí estimated the value of the haul - which involved around 200 growing or previously harvested plants - at around €160,000.

When gardaí arrived at the farm, only Mr O'Rouke's mother and brother were present. Owen O'Rourke was subsequently arrested three days later, and he made full admissions about his role in the cultivation operation.

Mr O'Rourke told gardaí that the grow house had been set up by his father - who had passed away two months previously - in order to support his plumbing business.

Gardaí said the operation would have required "considerable effort" to set up. After his father's death, Mr O'Rourke and his mother decided to keep the grow-house operating in order to help pay the mortgage on the family home.

Mr O'Rourke's mother - who previously received an 18-month suspended sentence for her part in the operation - helped run the grow-house while Mr O'Rourke, who was 19 at the time, ran the grow-house and also handled sales of the drug which, the court heard, he had primarily been selling in the Killarney area for around €300 per ounce.

His mother had no part in the sale of the drugs. Gardaí said that Mr O'Rourke had been "extremely frank and honest" about his involvement and admitted that by that time he had sold about 10 ounces of the cannabis in Killarney.

According to Gardaí, it would have been very difficult to press charges against Mr O'Rourke were it not for his cooperation. Judge O'Donnell - who described the grow house as a "family enterprise" - adjourned sentencing in the matter until July 17 next.