A BIBLICAL “message” imploring a devout Christian to grow a backyard cannabis crop to become “closer to God” has instead landed the man closer to jail.
District Court judge Paul Muscat this week warned the father-of-two to quit his longstanding dope habit or go to jail over the seizure of 83 cannabis plants and a quantity of the hallucinogenic drug mescaline in February 2016.
The 38-year old confessed to cultivating a commercial quantity of cannabis and possession of mescaline, which he harvested from cactus plants in his Adelaide backyard.
Despite prosecutors’ submissions that the crop was too large to warrant a suspended sentence, Judge Muscat said he was prepared to give the man one last shot at redemption.
He said the unusual nature of the case was highlighted by the man’s claim that he embarked on the ill-fated venture after interpreting a Bible passage as a message from God.
“It was put that your cultivation of the cannabis plants had a religious element to it, with you interpreting a verse in the Bible that related to the use of ointment which you considered to be derived from cannabis plants in order for you to become closer to God and his teachings,” Judge Muscat said.
“I must say I found that ... somewhat difficult to accept, although I am prepared to sentence you on the basis that that was indeed your belief.”
While many of the plants were mere seedlings, Judge Muscat said the different stages of maturation among the crop made it clear “this was not simply a one-off cultivation”.
Judge Muscat accepted the size of the crop had “got out of hand” and the man had unwittingly found himself facing a maximum penalty of 25 years’ prison or a $200,000 fine.
“I am sure that when you set out to grow these plants you had no idea that you would be facing such a high maximum penalty if you were apprehended,” he said.
Judge Muscat said the man — who was not named in sentencing remarks and The Advertiser has chosen not to identify — had endured a horrific upbringing blighted by persistent physical and sexual abuse by a stepfather who “can only be described as evil”.
“You really haven’t come to terms with your childhood trauma ... it is also of little surprise that you took to smoking cannabis and drinking heavily to deal with (it),” he said.
Prosecutors did not object to the man serving his 12-month prison term on home detention, but Judge Muscat said the man’s lack of any criminal record and troubled past entitled him to a fully suspended sentence.
The man must be of good behaviour and remain drug-free for 18 months, attend counselling and pay a $400 fine.
“You are not to commit any criminal offences during the term of the bond and that includes your use of illicit substances,” Judge Muscat said.
“You will not likely receive another chance like this if you commit any further crimes of this nature or should you not adhere to the conditions of your bond.”
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