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UK: Judge warns as cannabis man cleared

Source: BBC Online

Pub Date: Friday, 17 Jan 2004



A north Wales man has been cleared of supplying cannabis to sick people in what may be a landmark case.


Jeffrey Ditchfield, 43, from Rhyl, was found not guilty of the possession of cannabis with intent to supply after he told a jury at Chester Crown Court that he had only supplied it to the sick to try to help them.


The shopowner used the defence of "necessity", arguing that the supply of the drug to sick people was not a misuse under the Misuse of Drugs Act.


The Crown Prosecution Service in north Wales said after the verdict it was the first time it had heard of anyone using such a defence in a supply of cannabis case.


Judge Elgan Edwards told Mr Ditchfield he should not take it as approval for what he was doing.


"If you do the same thing again you could be prosecuted again," he said.


"You are an intelligent and sincere man but you do run the risk."


During the trial the court heard that Mr Ditchfield was not involved with cannabis until a friend with multiple sclerosis said it helped her condition three years ago.


Bulked out


He then began to research its benefits and discovered that much of what was being sold on the streets contained very little cannabis, claiming it was sometimes bulked out with plastic, diesel, coffee, or henna.


He told the court his view on cannabis had changed, and he felt that purer cannabis should be available to help sick people.


Speaking after the verdict, Mr Ditchfield said he could not have wished for a better result.


He said he would stop supplying cannabis to sick people once it was legally made available to them, but in the meantime, he said, he would not turn his back on them.


He claimed the verdict was a landmark ruling.