Pensioner leads police to own cannabis farm
LAUREN CROOKS ([email protected])
A PENSIONER was caught with hundreds of pounds worth of cannabis by police while they investigated a knife-wielding intruder at his home.
Grandfather-of-three Maurice DeMarco, 73, said the drugs - worth an estimated £1200 - were purely for himself and his friends to use as an alcohol substitute.
He had originally called the police after an attempted robbery at his Portobello home - but hadn't bargained on officers searching his property and finding the Class C drugs and a sophisticated cultivation system.
De Marco insisted to police it was a non-commercial pursuit and claimed he had never sold any of his crop.
However, he still found himself up at court accused with supplying controlled drugs.
Yesterday at Edinburgh Sheriff Court, ex-soldier DeMarco plead guilty to the charge and was handed 100 hours of community service. Sheriff Derrick McIntyre said: "Supply of drugs is a very serious matter."
The court heard how DeMarco had been sitting in his flat when intruders broke in and demanded drugs from him in November last year.
He refused on the grounds that he did not supply drugs to others and managed to contact the police.
However, when they arrived at his home, an overwhelming smell of cannabis led officers to grow suspicious and they decided to search the property.
Bemused DeMarco couldn't refuse and led the police to a bedroom filled with cannabis plants, heating panels, weighing scales and other drug paraphernalia.
Police also found around £720 in cash and books on how to grow cannabis.
DeMarco insisted that he had grown the plants for personal use and sometimes gave some of the drugs he had produced away to friends for free.
He claimed that there had been no financial gain in his actions, and that he had originally learned how to cultivate the plants when a friend had fallen ill.
He said the elderly smokers had used the drugs as a cheaper substitute for alcohol.
DeMarco also told police there were so many cannabis plants in his house because they were all at different stages - like a vegetable garden - and only one plant was ever used at a time.
He said he believed growing his own crop meant he didn't have to get involved in the criminal scene.
His solicitor Vince Belmonte said: "This is a 73-year-old man who has never been in trouble before in his life.
"He had a triple bypass in recent years and is comparatively frail.
"Mr DeMarco is incredibly embarrassed by this situation. It has embarrassed him and his family."
Confiscation of the money found in the raid was not sought after it emerged it was his life savings and was not earned as a result of the cannabis crop.
He also revealed that his two smoking friends had since died and he no longer uses the Class C drug.
DeMarco had previously served in the army and had worked all his life.
He has five children and three grandchildren.