The Changhua District Prosecutors’ Office on Friday indicted a 37-year-old US man for violating the Narcotics Hazard Prevention Act (毒品危害防制條例) by growing nearly 300 marijuana plants in a house in Changhua County’s Yuanlin Township (員林).
The authorities said the man, whose first name is Mark, was an English-language teacher.
The case came to light when police were tipped off in April. After searching a Yuanlin house and finding 286 marijuana plants, they detained him for questioning.
According to the indictment, Mark obtained 12 cannabis seedlings in 2008 from a South African friend living in Taiwan.
The prosecutors said the American at first planted the seedling on the balcony of his apartment in Yuanlin.
In 2009, he built a greenhouse at his Taiwanese girlfriend’s house after researching online for tips and techniques for growing cannabis.
The police said they found a greenhouse on the third and fourth floors of the house, which had 24-hour ambience control to keep the temperature at a constant 21?C, with air-conditioning and humidity regulation, sun lamps, pH meters, electric fans and professional agricultural implements.
On the man’s computer, the police said they found figures that they suspected were accounts for customer sales.
However, they could not establish if actual sales had taken place.
The suspect has been quoted in Chinese-language media reports as saying that he grew the cannabis for his personal use, because he suffers from severe back pain and insomnia.
“I have tried many other medications, but none of them is effective. Only marijuana worked the best. That is why I started to grow the plants,” the United Daily News quoted him as saying, adding that he said he had not sold cannabis to anyone.
Yet the newspaper reported that after receiving the tip-off, Changhua police had put the house under surveillance before raiding it.
They observed that a significant number of people and cars came to the house on some weekends.
The police said they also suspected the man of selling the marijuana to people at nightclubs and bars, and plan to continue to investigate the possible sales.
Marijuana is classified as a Category II narcotic, along with mescaline, coca leaf, opium and amphetamines.
Article 4 of the act states that people found guilty of manufacturing, transporting or selling Category II narcotics can be sentenced to a prison term ranging from seven years to life.
They may also be fined up to NT$10 million (US$333,400).