A HYDROPONIC shop owner from Halesowen has been sentenced after he sold specialised equipment for the booming drug cultivation industry.

Simeon Keane, of Severn Acres Road and the owner of Growpatch Ltd, High Street, Blackheath was sentenced to 17 weeks suspended for 18 months.

He was prosecuted along with 11 other shop owners across the Black Country and Birmingham after the police swooped on shops in February.

All pleaded guilty to encouraging or assisting others to commit an offence (cannabis production) at a previous court hearing.

The stores were targeted by detectives following a five month undercover operation to demonstrate a clear link between the behaviour of the staff and the promotion of cannabis production.

Acting Detective Chief Inspector Tom Chisholm, from force CID, said: "We hope this sends a message that we will target anyone involved in drugs cultivation whether they are street sellers, growers or even the people knowingly selling the growing equipment.

"Cannabis is currently the biggest drugs market in the West Midlands; we have found that most criminal gangs will be involved in cannabis in some way as it is low risk and high profit to produce.

"Over the last few years we have seen a proliferation of hydroponic shops in the West Midlands; currently there are 40 to 50 premises across the force area.

"There is a clear link with the items sold through these premises to equipment we find during drugs raids it was a natural step to carry out this operation.

He added: "We have also found that more people, who wouldn’t ordinarily produce the drug, are growing their own cannabis for profit. "The force is attending and dismantling on average one cannabis set up a day in the West Midlands, it is not only a huge drain on our resources but also a risk to the public as most set ups are illegally abstracting electricity which often results in damaging properties or even causing a house fire."

DI Chisholm added: "By targeting suppliers we are able to disrupt markets through another avenue, there remains a lack of legislation for shops supplying growing equipment clearly they must abide by the law but there is no licensing agreement in place which would restrict their trading."