A cancer patient set up two illegal cannabis farms to produce cannabis oil ‘for medicinal reasons’, a court heard.
Terrence Edwards, 62, was caught growing 20 plants when his home in Ormskirk caught fire on June 19 2020. The property had been provided to him by a local church after he suffered a family breakdown but when firefighters attended the property they uncovered Edwards’ illegal grow.
Beth Pilling, prosecuting, told Preston Crown Court the blaze had extinguished one of the bedrooms but officers found eight cannabis plants growing in the attic and 14 plants in the basement. Edwards admitted growing 20 plants as he suffered physical and mental health difficulties and planned to extract the oil for his own medicinal use.
Edwards was unable to return to the property as it was damaged by fire and the landlord no longer wanted him to live there after the grow was discovered. He moved to a property in Southport but on June 6 2021, a FedEx driver who was delivering a parcel noticed a strong smell of cannabis and saw plants growing through the window.
The driver sent a photograph to the police who went to the house and found a grow which had recently been cropped and 49 young plants which had not yet flowered. A police drugs expert said the plants had a potential yield of between 1.3kg and 4.1kg – with a street value between £13,720 and £61,740.
Each grow was fitted out with specialist equipment, lighting and fans, Ms Pilling said.
Edwards was arrested for a second time and said he was growing the plants as he he had been given a prescription for medicinal cannabis to help with his cancer and mental health symptoms. However issues in the supply chain during the pandemic meant his medicine was delayed and he had resorted to growing his own, and said he would help others who were in the same position with the cannabis oil he produced.
He claimed the equipment had been left at the property by a former tenant and he took advantage of it. He pleaded guilty to two counts of production of cannabis, a class B drug, and appeared at Preston Crown Court to be sentenced. Ms Pilling said the offence was aggravated as he was growing for ‘significant advantage’.
Erim Mushtaq, defending, said Edwards was diagnosed with complex PTSD after witnessing atrocities when he worked as a project manager in the Middle East. He also has prostate cancer. His marriage broke down in 2019 and he began a downward spiral in which his physical and mental health had deteriorated and his mum died in April 2019, she said.
“He was at such a low ebb, particularly with the cancer diagnosis, and the treatment he was prescribed affected him adversely. He started using cannabis to self medicate and his intention in growing cannabis in 2020 was purely for his own purpose.
“In 2020 the pandemic hit and affected various industries. He was desperate for a prescription but had to wait many months before his prescription for medical cannabis was granted and even then it was for a limited time as the medical industry and supply chain was affected by the pandemic.
“He accepts knowing he was at the very least under investigation for the Ormskirk matter before making the decision to grow in Southport – it was a decision he made purely to have sufficient cannabis to keep him going because of the lack of supply. The treatment he was given for cancer was having such a detrimental effect he was having to self medicate, and cannabis was the only thing to offer any relief”, Ms Mushtaq said.
Recorder Paul Atherton sentenced Edwards, now of Leonard Street, Stoke-on-Trent, to 15 months suspended for two years.
He said: “It is accepted by both sides that Mr Edwards’ role was significant. He expected some advantage to his activity and he had some awareness and understanding of what was going on. The more serious is the Southport offence as by the time it was committed on June 4 2021 he was under investigation for the Ormskirk matter.
“I am prepared to accept that Mr Edwards had been through a difficult time in his personal life with the family breakdown and I accept he suffers some serious mental and physical health issues.”
He ordered Edwards to carry out 15 days of rehabilitation activities, telling him: “I hope your health recovers and I trust the courts will not see you again.”