A former minister in the Keating government has thrown his political weight behind a cancer patient who faces losing his home after being declared a drug trafficker over a homegrown cannabis crop he used to ease his pain.
Warren Burns, 69, is preparing for a court hearing about the confiscation of three properties in between chemotherapy treatments. But despite his chronic illness, the former panelbeater is vowing to fight the State’s intention to seize his assets — and has been joined in his battle by former assistant treasurer George Gear.
Mr Burns was last year found guilty by a District Court jury of possession of cannabis with intent to sell or supply after police raids in late 2014 found 100.81 grams of cannabis, and 73 plants. He did not deny the drugs and plants were his, but says they were never intended for sale. He says he has been “self medicating” with cannabis for more than 20 years after experiencing chronic back pain, heart trouble and arthritis.
Under WA’s drug laws, having more than 20 plants makes you liable to be declared a trafficker — and the State’s property confiscation laws mean you automatically forfeit all your property to the State, even if legally acquired. In Mr Burns’ case that includes properties in Meerup, Pemberton and Manjimup, which will leave him homeless and take away his planned legacy for his children.
“I found when I had a smoke, the pain would disappear and I was able to get up, go out and do some work,” Mr Burns said. “The cannabis was to help me live some sort of life, not make me money — there is no drug money.”
Mr Burns was sentenced to 12 months jail by District Court judge Laurie Levy last year, who noted during sentencing “your primary motivation for cultivating cannabis was to deal with your pain." Mr Gear, an old schoolmate of Mr Burns, has met Attorney-General Michael Mischin to advocate his friend’s plight.
“I would like to see the legislation changed, and an ex-gratia payment made to Warren which would give him back the real value of the money he used from his own account and his mother’s estate to make the purchases,” Mr Gear said.
A spokeswoman for Mr Mischin said they could not comment before the confiscation hearing, which is due to be heard next week.
By Tim Clarke - The Western Australian/July 15, 2016
Photo: Nic Ellis, WA
Dear Drugs-Forum readers: We are a small non-profit that runs one of the most read drug information & addiction help websites in the world. We serve over 4 million readers per month, and have costs like all popular websites: servers, hosting, licenses and software. To protect our independence we do not run ads. We take no government funds. We run on donations which average $25. If everyone reading this would donate $5 then this fund raiser would be done in an hour. If Drugs-Forum is useful to you, take one minute to keep it online another year by donating whatever you can today. Donations are currently not sufficient to pay our bills and keep the site up. Your help is most welcome. Thank you.