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UK: Judge sentences cannabis chocolate dealers

Russell Jenkins

The Times

Saturday 27 Jan 2007

Three campaigners who supplied chocolate that was laced with cannabis to
help to ease the pain of MS sufferers were given suspended jail
sentences yesterday.

Lezley Gibson, 42, a multiple sclerosis sufferer, her husband Mark, 42,
and associate Marcus Davies, 36, were found guilty of conspiring to
supply the drug last month.

The couple, who run a gift shop in Alston, a village in the North
Pennines, had argued that they were operating a not-for-profit service.
The jury at Carlisle Crown Court rejected their contention that they had
a defence in law because the drug was being used for medicinal purposes.

Judge John Phillips accepted that their motives were altruistic and had
been prompted by a genuine desire to help people. Each of the three
received a nine-month jail sentence, suspended for two years.

Judge Phillips agreed with the defence that there were exceptional
circumstances, but he could not agree that a conditional discharge was
an appropriate punishment.

He said: “The conspiracy to supply drugs took place over a number of
years in what was a sophisticated operation.”

After the hearing Mrs Gibson, who said that she had been taking
antidepressants because of the case, said: “I was devastated when we
were found guilty and this decision has broken me again. I still do not
think I have done anything wrong. How can it be wrong to try and help
ill people?

“The people who used our services are now forced to go to the street
dealers and buy contaminated cannabis.”

The couple, who ran the campaign group THC4MS (Therapeutic Help from
Cannabis for Multiple Sclerosis), posted more than 36,000 bars of
“Canna-Biz” to more than 1,800 MS sufferers.

In each case they asked their clients for a note from a consultant,
doctor or nurse confirming their diagnosis. Each was asked to make a
donation, ranging from £1.50 to £5.

They placed advertisements in the regional and national media. Cumbria
Police were said to have been aware of the operation.

Cash receipts totalling £30,000 were seized, but Mrs Gibson told
officers that the money had been spent on production of the chocolate bars.

Davies, of St Ives, Cambridge-shire, admitted running a web-site and
post office box number but had denied any involvement in making or
posting the chocolates.

After the hearing, Claire Lindley, the Cumbria chief Crown prosecutor,
said that the campaigners had not known the medical circumstances of
those who received the drugs and that the enterprise had been commercial.,,200-2568732,00.html




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