A toker caught growing almost 300 cannabis plants at his home stayed out of jail after a judge accepted the drugs were for his own use.
Liam White, 21, told the Court he smoked £30 of cannabis a day.
His home in Dewsgreen, Vange, was raided by police in March. They found 15 mature cannabis plants in the cupboard under the stairs and 267 further plants in growbags upstairs.
Judge Ian Graham ruled there was insufficient evidence to prove White was planning to sell the drugs.
Sentencing him at Basildon Crown Court yesterday, Judge Graham said: “Given the number of plants, there must be a suspicion as to what the destination of the cannabis was, but I can’t say for sure. There is not enough evidence you were intending to supply it on a commercial basis.”
Police were called to the house in March by neighbours who reported White’s door had been left open.
Officers arrived and could smell cannabis as soon as they walked in.
One of them noticed the door to the cupboard under the stairs was bulging. Inside, he found 15 four-foot high plants.
A full search of the house turned up the rest of the plants, along with specialist lights and an extractor fan in an upstairs room. White handed himself in to police the following day.
His lawyer, Dominic Bush, said: “What seems at first glance to be a fairly sophisticated operation was anything but. It was merely an opportunity, he thought, to save himself some money.”
He told the court White had planted the smaller plants after a friend gave him them as cuttings. Mr Bush added: “He was just crossing his fingers and hoping for the best.”
White, who had admitted the production of a controlled substance at an earlier hearing, was given a six-month prison sentence, suspended for 18 months.
He was also placed under the supervision of the probation service for 12 months, ordered to do 100 hours unpaid work and 25 days of education, training and employment.
By Sarah Calkin