A Wigan businessman who grew cannabis for medicinal purposes today said “I’m no crook.”
Russell McGarry reluctantly pleaded guilty to producing and possessing the drug – which he uses to treat his wife’s spinal arthritis and his own stress-related illness – but maintains he did not believe he had committed any offence.
The former night and leisure club chain owner says that the prosecution has now forced him, against his will, to buy cannabis from “real drug dealers” when his own operation had nothing to do with criminality or making unlawful profits.
McGarry, 48, of Waverley Road, Hindley, addressed Judge Gerald Clifton directly because he had sacked his barrister. He explained that he grew cannabis as it helped spouse Jacqueline’s painful spondylitis.
He said: “I have seen my wife in awful pain and we have tried everything.”
He said he himself has been prescribed medicines but found that using cannabis helps “sort my head out”, which counsellors had failed to do.
McGarry said that he does not smoke and they just use oil from the plants in cooking, such as making cannabis butter.
The father-of-three added: “I have never sold drugs. I despise drug dealers.
“I am not the kind of guy who listens to Bob Marley and wears T-shirts with a Marijuana leaf on the front.
“I have been prescribed dozens of drugs which make me feel like I’m on drugs.
“I don’t feel I have committed an offence, there is no victim. I paid for the electricity, I paid for the equipment. I have done years of research into it. I am only interested in making my wife’s life better.”
He pointed out that there are 1,003 shops in this country which sell the equipment for growing cannabis.
“I do not class myself as a criminal. There is no financial gain and my wife and I keep ourselves to ourselves. We have not been out since 1994 and I’m lucky if I have four cans of lager in a year.”
McGarry said that police had returned to his home since their raid and he had not resumed growing cannabis.
But he admitted that while on bail he had been out to buy cannabis from a dealer.
Judge Clifton told him: “I am not going to sentence you on the basis you are public enemy number one in Wigan.”
He made him the subject of a two-year community order and ordered him to carry out 150 hours’ unpaid work.
David Clarke, prosecuting, told Liverpool Crown Court that police raided McGarry’s home on February 26 and in a specially equipped room, lined with silver foil, they found eight cannabis plants growing.
After the hearing McGarry, who had to give up work because of his health problems, said: “My GP said he would prescribe me cannabis if he could but he can’t, so he is now referring me to another doctor who might be able to.”
By Charles Graham