After garnering more than $1.5 million through selling homegrown cannabis, a former U.K. police officer and military member has the opportunity to avoid further jail time, so long as he can pay back about $160,000 within three months.
According to a Times & Star report, a crown court judge announced the ruling earlier this week for 69-year-old David Allen, who ran an illegal cannabis factory from a site near Penrith. Allen was previously jailed for 43 months and has since been released on license, though if he doesn’t pay back the money in time, he could face a 12-month jail term.
Police caught wind of the operation after receiving reports of a strong cannabis smell emanating from a farm 100 meters away from Calthwaite primary school, according to a 2021 report from News & Star.
Detectives soon discover that Allen had been involved in the “continuous commercial production of cannabis at the property,” which investigators called a “professional grow.” The operation had 80 plants using high-end, specialized equipment designed to maximize yield, including timed lamps, heaters, a working industrial ventilation system, a substantial drying area, vacuum-packing machinery and empty fertilizer containers.
“A search of the defendant’s farmhouse revealed further equipment and packaging for the cannabis,” prosecutor Alaric Walmsley told Carlisle Crown Court, “notes and manuals of how to grow cannabis and operate the machinery; cash; and weapons—knives, a crossbow and air rifles in strategic positions ready to protect the cannabis farm.”
Officers estimated that the operation could potentially produce 42 kilograms, or around 93 pounds, of cannabis annually. One detective described the operation as “one of the most carefully constructed and sophisticated set-ups” he had ever seen. Officers also found a crossbow and air rifles, meant to protect the grow, and nearly $20,000 in cash in Allen’s bedroom. They were also able to track cash deposits worth nearly half a million pounds, sent to an ex-partner in the Philippines.
After being released, while still under investigation, Allen said that he had made “arrangements to leave the country.” He told an estate agent in November that he was packing and planning to “retire in the sunshine,” mentioning Asia with suggestions that he would not be returning. Ultimately, he was arrested and remanded in custody that same month.
Allen ultimately admitted to both cannabis production and possession of proceeds of crime.
Per News & Star, Allen had toured Northern Ireland, Bosnia, the Gulf and Afghanistan during his 24 years of dedicated military service to the United Kingdom. Allen also worked as a Northumbria police officer for four years.
Barrister Michael Davies represented Allen in Court for the Proceeds of Crime hearing and spoke of Allen’s public service during his time in the Army at the sentencing hearing. Davies also mentioned that the weapons found at the site of the cannabis factory were all legally held and none were loaded. Davies also mentioned that Allen began using cannabis himself to self-medicate for back pain.
Allen’s story mirrors a number of other recent headlines. Earlier this year, a U.S. police officer was arrested after selling cannabis while on duty and in uniform. He was ultimately arrested in late January by agents with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s Southwestern Regional Drug Enforcement Office. Drug enforcement agents went undercover after receiving a tip that the officer was selling cannabis on the job.
Back in 2020 in the U.K., another officer received widespread attention after admitting to cannabis use, even though he headed a panel responsible for disciplining officers for cannabis use. The officer was suspended from duty, pending completion of an investigation into allegations of drug misuse.