Arthritic cannabis user fined

CHRONIC arthritis sufferer Reay Wales is paying the price today after being found guilty of cultivating cannabis.The 51-year-old, of Vincent Drive, Ipswich, made no secret of the fact he grew the class B drug but argued it was out of "necessity" rather than choice.

CHRONIC arthritis sufferer Reay Wales is paying the price today after being found guilty of cultivating cannabis.

The 51-year-old, of Vincent Drive, Ipswich, made no secret of the fact he grew the class B drug but argued it was out of "necessity" rather than choice.

In the final day of the three-day case, the jury at Ipswich Crown Court heard accounts of Wales' suffering and the capability of cannabis to ease his pain, which is caused by chronic rheumatoid arthritis and pancreatic disease.

Defending, Ben Cooper said: "The evil Mr Wales was avoiding was disproportionate to the evil of the act he was committing.

"Mr Wales had a genuine reason for using cannabis – to treat his acute pain. He wasn't seeking to cause anyone any trouble, he was just seeking to continue to take his cannabis without the interference of the state."

Prosecutor Rupert Overbury countered that Wales smoked cannabis out of choice rather than necessity. He said: "The crown is sympathetic to Mr Wales' plight but sympathy is not a defence. There is no evidence to say he needed to use cannabis as opposed to prescribed drugs he was given."

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After spending more than 3 hours deliberating on the case, the jury returned a majority verdict of ten to two.

Mitigating, Mr Cooper called for an absolute discharge, arguing it would be impossible for Wales to carry out a community punishment and a financial penalty would "make it very difficult for him to get by".

Judge Peter Thompson rejected the plea and ordered Wales to pay a £200 fine at a rate of £10 per week. He also warned Wales that it would be very "unwise" for him to continue growing cannabis.

Addressing Wales, he said: "This case has taken some time to complete at considerable expense. I accept your disabilities mean you can't do anything by way of a community penalty, which is why I believe the only appropriate penalty is financial."

After finding Wales guilty the court heard details of Wales' past crimes, which included one offence of possessing cannabis in 1982.

Judge Thompson added: "Whatever the future of decriminalising cannabis holds, the jury needs to deal with the law as it stands."

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