Source: Daily Post, Wales

Pub Date: Thursday 15 January 2004

Subj: Cannabis Giveway

Author: Carl Butler

Ref:  Cannabis Cafes





A CANNABIS campaigner set himself up as "a pharmacy" for people he decided needed the drug, a court was told yesterday.


Jeff Ditchfield, who wanted to open a Dutch-style coffee shop in Rhyl, told police he would give the drug freely as a medicine to relieve suffering.


Since the start of his campaign to legalise cannabis 18 months ago, Ditchfield said people had started giving him the drug because they knew he was trying to help sick people.


The 48-year-old, of Water Street, Rhyl, has pleaded not guilty at Chester Crown Court to two charges of possession of cannabis and The drugs were found in Ditchfield's car as police searched a shop he was opening, Beggar's Belief, in Water Street, Rhyl.


Ditchfield told police he would not lie and say the drugs were for his own use - which was a far lesser charge.


"It was high quality medicinal cannabis, suitable for patients and it belonged to me," he told police, when interviewed.


"I know if I lie and say it was for me it would be a lot lesser offence. But I won't lie, I don't see why I should lie for something I believe in.


"My intention was if anyone asked for it to relieve their suffering, if someone had turned up with a medicinal need ... and they asked me for help, I would have gone to the car and given it to them."


As the trial opened yesterday, Karl Scholz, prosecuting, told the jury: "There is no dispute that the items found in his car were his.


"He was to explain to police he had been campaigning for 18 months for the laws in relation to cannabis to be changed, in effect to allow its use or smoking to be quite lawful."


Mr Scholz said Ditchfield believed the drug should be available for medicinal use, particularly for sufferers with multiple sclerosis (MS).


Although everyone knew it was legally wrong to possess, cultivate or supply cannabis, Mr Ditchfield would say it was morally right.


In his interview with police, Ditchfield said he wanted to open Beggar's Belief as a "Dutch-style coffee shop" but because of planning delays he decided to stick with the existing planning use and open as a retail shop.


Asked by police if he planned to sell or give cannabis away at his coffee shop he said he would not because it was illegal.


But he repeated that if a person came to him seeking help with a medical condition, he would, where appropriate, not hesitate to give them cannabis.


Asked if he would sell it he replied: "I have never charged a sick person for it and I wouldn't. It should be free on the NHS. It would be morally wrong to make money off sick people."


The trial continues and is expected to end today.


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