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Cannabis crusader, 71, is given a suspended jail term after admitting growing and supplying the drug

A West Wales pensioner who campaigned over three decades to have cannabis legalised as “a medicine” has been given a one year suspended jail term after admitting two counts of producing the drug at his home.

Eric Stanley Mann, 71, of Harbour Way, Pembroke Dock, a former coal miner and construction supervisor, also admitted one charge of supplying cannabis to people suffering a variety of conditions including cancer.

Mann was forced into retirement in the 1980s by crippling arthritis but “self medicated” using cannabis he grew himself claiming it relieved his pain and allowed him to function when previously he “could not put his socks on”.

Swansea Crown Court heard Mann has made numerous appearances before magistrates and judges since 1987 on cannabis related charges leading to him being fined, imprisoned and given suspended jail sentences.

Before Tuesday’s sentencing, Mann, representing himself, indicated he would argue a public interest defence based on the Human Rights Act but at the last minute pleaded guilty to producing cannabis plants and distilling it into oil at his home in the summer of last year and of supplying cannabis oil to others. He also admitted producing more cannabis plants and oil in June this year.

Ian Ibrahim, prosecuting, said Dyfed Powys Police discovered 21 small cannabis plants and five jars of cannabis oil at the defendant’s home last year and in another raid this summer found he again been producing cannabis.

Mr Ibrahim said: “He admitted producing the plants and distilling it into oil and supplying it to individuals who suffered ailments including cancer. The defendant regards himself as a care giver and looks upon cannabis as a medicine allowing him to break the law.

“He even went to the extent of removing the psycho-active element of cannabis so users would get the benefit but not get high out of it.”

The court heard Mann had no convictions up to the time he began coming before the courts for using cannabis to treat his arthritis.

Before being sentenced, he said in mitigation: “I worked all my life, down a coal mine and as a supervisor in construction and when I got ill I tried conventional drugs but they didn’t work. One drug I was using was withdrawn because people were killing themselves after becoming suicidal on it.

“When you’re in pain all the time and you can’t even put your socks on or make a cup of tea or anything life isn’t worth living but I found I could function through the use of cannabis as a medicine.”

Judge Paul Thomas, who added a one year supervision order to Mann’s jail term which was suspended for a year, said: “The law of the land is the law of the land and has to be obeyed. People can’t pick and choose which laws they want to obey and which they don’t.

“Week in, week out in these courts I and others see the effects cannabis has on people, particularly on their mental state. Whatever your views, cannabis does effect people’s minds, that is my experience and there is very good medical opinion on why people should not take cannabis.

“I think you genuinely consider you are helping yourself and can do a service to others and that cannabis can cure or at least have a beneficial effect on cancer sufferers but the vast proportion of medical opinion is that you are misguided in that and you are deluding yourself and others.”

The judge added he hoped Mann would now look at alternative methods of pain relief.

After the hearing, Mr Mann said he believed cannabis could be used to treat a variety of ailments and that it did not have side effects.

By Robin Turner