CANNABIS BATTLERS WAIT ON COURT DECISION

Discussion in 'Cannabis' started by Alfa, Mar 4, 2005.

  1. Alfa

    Alfa Productive Insomniac Staff Member Administrator

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    CANNABIS BATTLERS WAIT ON COURT DECISION


    TWO people at the centre of a test-case bid to change the laws regarding cannabis use for pain relief have been left facing an anxious wait after top judges reserved their decision.


    Anthony Taylor, 54, of Skinner Street, Finsbury, and May Lee, 28, of Dufferin Street, Finsbury, are among five people who have been prosecuted and given either a fine, community service or suspended sentence for possession of cannabis for medicinal pain relieving purposes.


    Mr Skinner runs a holistic health centre in King's Cross and imported high-quality cannabis from Switzerland to supply his clients, many of whom are terminally ill with AIDS.


    He and Ms Lee have appealed against their sentences, along with Reay Wales, 53, of Ipswich, Barry Quayle, 38, of Market Rasen, and Graham Kenny, of Shipley.


    A sixth man, Jeffrey Ditchfield, 43, of Rhyl, gave cannabis away to the sick and had plans to set up a "cannabis cafe" and was acquitted by a jury of possessing the drug with intent to supply. He is now facing arguments from the Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith QC, that his acquittal was wrong in law.


    The arguments hinge on whether protection from prosecution under the defence of "necessity" should be available to those who use or supply cannabis for medical purposes.


    This defence is usually only allowed when someone commits a criminal act in an attempt to save themselves from serious injury or death from an external source, such as an attack by another person.


    Lawyers for the six argued at the Criminal Appeal Court that there was no reason why the law should distinguish between serious harm from an external source and a need to prevent serious physical or psychological harm caused by pain to a sick person.


    Rajiv Menon, representing Mr Skinner, told the court: "He didn't break the law in order to make money.


    "This isn't a back-street dealer - he runs an internationally respected operation that's not just about supplying cannabis but about a holistic approach approach to the health of human beings.


    "He provides a unique service. Even those doctors who believe in the medicinal benefits of cannabis and refer their patients to Mr Taylor can't supply it because they risk losing their careers and being prosecuted."


    Mr Menon insisted that the defence of necessity should be open in medicinal cannabis cases: "There is no danger of this becoming a mask for anarchy.


    Prosecutors don't want this defence put to juries because they don't trust juries in cases like this because the general public is more tolerant about cannabis than the law.


    "Juries are more likely to acquit than convict given the human facts at the heart of these cases."


    Edward Fitzgerald, for Mr Wales, who suffers from serious bone and pancreatic conditions, and Quayle, who has had both his legs amputated, told the court both his clients suffered "life-threatening pain" before finding relief through cannabis.


    Katherine Hodson, for Kenny, who suffered a back injury in a work accidents, said cannabis had acted as the most effective pain relief, had lifted his depression and had allowed him to return to work.


    But Mukul Chawla, for the Crown, said: "The defence of necessity is realistic and humane concession accepting breach of the law in extreme circumstances not to provide permission to breach the law on a continuous basis."


    Recognising the novelty and importance of the appeals, Lord Justice Mance, Mr Justice Newman and Mr Justice Fulford reserved their decision which will now be given at a later, unspecified, date.