No Country for Auld Smokers (Part II)

Nicholas revisits the Keogh’s Crisps case and delves into more cases of arrests concerning cannabis seizures amongst older demographics.

As the Keogh’s Crisps case comes to a close, a number of arrests have been made for those not commonly associated with news stories of cannabis seizures.  Anthony Keogh, aged 64, the former Keogh’s Crisps director who grew cannabis as a ‘gardening experiment’ for medicinal purposes, can finally prepare for some decorum as he’ll have his sentence of eight months imprisonment deferred to October 4th, as stated by Judge Melanie Greally. The case has brought months of unrest to Mr Keogh and now there’s finally light at the end of the tunnel, but this isn’t the case for many people who found themselves in the same boat, growing cannabis for personal use.[1]

Evelyn Corrigan, aged 68, pleaded guilty to the possession of 325.7 grams of cannabis on the 11th of December 2017.  She argued that she had no intent to sell or supply and that the plant was simply utilised to treat her glaucoma and emphysema. In his closing statement, defendant James Dwyer SC, asked the court: “Is it suggested she was walking up and down the Square in Tallaght to sell it? Is this ‘Breaking Bad’ meets ‘The Golden Girls’?” The jury returned with a ‘Not Guilty’ verdict concerning the charge of possession of cannabis for sale or supply, as Judge Pauline Codd dismissed the charge of drugs possession under The Probation Act.

“International trends suggest that [medicinal cannabis] may change. It is people like Ms. Corrigan who are spearheading it. It’s been recognised as having significant health benefits.  She allowed me to make admissions so we could get to the point of this trial: the bizarre, frankly, suggestion that my client is a drug dealer.”

– James Dwyer SC. 

On behalf of the defence, Dwyer offered the jury “an apology that your precious time has been wasted on a ridiculous case like this”.[2]  Randolf Bruin, aged 52, found himself in a similar situation, having cultivated €16,000 worth of cannabis.  Unaware of how serious the situation had become, Mr Bruin’s lawyer said that Bruin, a father of one, was “trying things out, more or less”. Having cooperated with Gardaí during the initial search and following investigation, the court heard that Mr Bruin intended to use cannabis in his tea, cookies and to smoke it but there was no evidence of intent to sell. Mr Bruin had his charges struck out on the condition that he donate €1,000 to the Laura Lynn Foundation.[3]

Michael Curtis, aged 70, had over €1,000 worth of cannabis in his home when a detection dog discovered it during an investigation carried out by members of the Cork West Divisional Drugs Unit, under a search warrant at Mr Curtis’ property.  As we’ve seen in previous cases, there was no evidence that Mr Curtis had plans to supply the drug to anybody and that it was simply for personal consumption.  Judge Colm Roberts remarked, “It’s a lot to have for yourself, for a 70-year-old man.” As solicitor, Eamonn Fleming contended his client was not dealing in drugs. Judge Roberts responded, “My concern is there is a lifestyle choice here that believes he is above the law.”  This wasn’t the first time Mr Curtis had found himself in front of a judge. 

In 2017, he was sentenced to 100 hours of community service for cultivation.  A ruling that had no effect on a man that was trying “very hard” to give up drugs as stated by his solicitor, Mr Fleming. “I see no progress,” the judge retorted.[4]  The type of progress Judge Roberts expects from someone battling cannabis dependency is distilled in ignorance.  Does the referral of a General Practitioner not factor in when these sentences are handed out? Or is consuming cannabis simply a criminal’s activity? Given the empathy shown by these judges, I assume the latter.

While these are the stories that reach us, we don’t hear about the countless others that suffer the same fate.  The majority, if not all smokers over 40 are usually partaking in cannabis consumption as it provides a litany of benefits for aches, pains, and psychological issues commonly experienced as we mature in age.  Growing cannabis for personal use is becoming more prevalent in the wake of the blunder that is the Medicinal Cannabis Access Programme.  As we covered in a previous article, the programme was welcomed by many and in theory, stood to help thousands of people but in practice, has demonstrated that actions speak louder than words. 

Many would rather go through the appropriate channels to alleviate their ailments, but the programme has been such a farce that it leaves people to source cannabis themselves.  Recently, out of the twenty-four neurologists currently working in Ireland, nine have written to the Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly, voicing alarm over the products likely to be offered. Regarding the treatment of epilepsy patients, they have stated they will shun the programme over concerns of, “inappropriate and potentially harmful” products being made available under it. [5] 

The handling of medicinal cannabis in this country has been a disaster and has subsequently pushed people to either source from the unregulated black market or harvest the plant themselves.  This has resulted in more cases of varying ages and backgrounds being placed under arrest for attempting to care for themselves privately. But in cases of more mature demographics being arrested comes a new perspective for their peers who always assumed cannabis was a young person’s drug.  That cannabis prohibition only affected the generations untied to them politically and/or spiritually.  The dissemination of these cases only serves to provide those uninterested in the plight of the young person, a chance to acknowledge that cannabis prohibition affects everyone even if they don’t know it. With more pensioners likely to appear in the news from cannabis seizures, the awareness of archaic laws governing cannabis consumption will begin to turn the tide on the discussion of reform.  We can only hope….


References:

[1] https://www.irishexaminer.com/news/courtandcrime/arid-40337237.html

[2] https://www.thejournal.ie/pensioner-acquitted-of-possession-of-cannabis-for-sale-or-supply-after-plants-grow-too-big-5506624-Jul2021/

[3] https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/courts/cannabis-growing-father-52planned-to-use-drug-in-tea-and-cookies-40571252.html

[4] https://www.irishexaminer.com/news/courtandcrime/arid-40282184.html

[5] https://www.irishtimes.com/news/health/some-doctors-say-they-will-shun-state-s-medicinal-cannabis-programme-1.4643103

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