Police arrest fisherman for using hemp bait
By Dr. Sam Loomis, Smokedot
Friday, 27 May 2005
A championship angler netted during a drugs raid has criticised police after claiming he was taken to court over his choice of fishing bait.
Steven Barks was charged with possessing cannabis after officers found boxes of leaves stashed in his garden shed.
But the furious 36-year-old insisted the drug was simply hemp - a widely-used bait that can be bought from fishing shops.
Prosecutors warned they would seek a trial if he stuck by the claim - even though a judge said dragging the case out was a waste of time and money,
Frustrated Mr Barks brought the matter to a close by pleading guilty and walked free from court with a six-month conditional discharge.
"I had intended to deny it all the way, but I couldn't afford any more expense," said Mr Barks. "I use hemp as a bait all the time, and so do a lot of other fishermen.
"Everyone I have spoken to can't believe I have been prosecuted. If it's against the law, then why is it that you can go into fishing shops and buy it?"
Lincoln Crown Court heard how police seized the cannabis when they raided Mr Barks' home at Fillingham, near Gainsborough, last October.
Chris Low, prosecuting, said the search ended when boxes containing 65.9 grammes of cannabis-leaf material was discovered in Mr Barks' shed.
The haul was later analysed and found to contain two per cent tetrahydrocannabinol - the chemical responsible for getting cannabis users 'high'.
Mr Low claimed the leaves' THC content was "consistent with home-grown cannabis".
But Jon Straw, in mitigation, said: "The prosecution says that the herbal material found in Mr Barks' possession following the police raid is cannabis. He says it is hemp, which he used in the course of fishing. Mr Barks is a fisherman, and hemp is a very commonly used form of bait.
"If the THC content was high, it might have indicated a certain purpose. But it was very low.
"It contained a THC content of just two per cent, which probably means he would have died of lung cancer before he would have been stoned."
Mr Straw said it would not be in the public interest to continue the case against Mr Barks, who has no previous convictions for drugs offences.
Judge Andrew Hamilton urged prosecutors not to pursue a trial.
"What does it matter unless he grew it or was going to supply it?" he said. "He was simply in possession of a Class C drug for his own use. I think the matter should be resolved one way or the other to save further public expense."
Mr Barks, who admitted possessing a Class C drug, said he was disgusted to have been treated like a criminal.
"The police smashed my door down, even though it was open. They just put me in handcuffs and put me in the back of the wagon," he said.