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No Conviction For Cannabis Grower

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A wealthy Christchurch businessman who was caught growing cannabis has
escaped without a conviction after convincing a High Court judge that he
used it medicinally.

Ian Murray Jackson, 55, admitted cultivating $12,000 worth of the drug in a
high-tech hydroponics operation at his Burnside home. However, the
$300,000-a-year company director claimed smoking cannabis was the only way
he could mitigate the pain of his chronic bowel condition at night while
remaining capable of running his high-tech international business during
the day.

After hearing evidence from Jackson, his GP, and his business partner,
Justice Panckhurst accepted his claim that he used the cannabis to
alleviate pain and that recording convictions for cultivating and
possessing the drug could jeopardise the jobs of his employees by
preventing him travelling internationally.

Despite describing Jackson's offending as "persistent and sophisticated",
his honour discharged Jackson without conviction on each charge, ruling
that the impact on others would outweigh the seriousness of the crime.
Jackson was ordered to pay $7500 costs and had the name and nature of his
business suppressed.

Outside court, Jackson declined to comment, but his case has polarised
campaigners on the cannabis debate.

Advocates of cannabis being decriminalised for medicinal use hailed it as a
vital breakthrough, but critics said it was further proof that wealthy drug
offenders, such as American billionaire Peter Benjamin Lewis, were able to
avoid facing the full consequences of their actions. Lewis, who was caught
importing cannabis when he arrived to watch the America's Cup in 2000, was
also granted name suppression until it was overturned in an appeal
initiated by the media.

Giving evidence under oath in the High Court in Christchurch this week,
Jackson told Justice Panckhurst he earned up to $320,000 a year from his
company. It was on a business trip to the United States in June 1998 that
he first began to suffer from a debilitating and painful bowel condition.
Nothing prescribed by his doctors ameliorated the pain or the condition.
"Then I took to using cannabis. It gives incredible relief from the pain,"
he said. "I looked at it as the lesser of two evils. I have 20 people whose
jobs depend on me. I'd never used illicit drugs before and only used
prescription drugs if I absolutely had to.

"I started growing my own cannabis in December 2001 from seeds I'd found in
the cannabis I bought."

Police raided his home in September and found a shed with a sophisticated
hydroponics system operated by a laptop computer. Jackson said he produced
two crops a year, enough to have "four or five" joints a night. "I take
some when I get home from work and then in the evening when I needed
relief. I don't smoke it during the day. I have a business to run and I
can't be smoking cannabis and thinking straight."

Jackson said he was the only person in the company who could pitch for
business in vital overseas markets but drug convictions would prevent him
from travelling.

When questioned by prosecutor James Rapley, Jackson admitted that he had
not asked his doctor for pain relief before trying cannabis. "I didn't seek
out anything. I've got a fairly good knowledge of chemistry and
pharmacology and couldn't think of anything that would leave me with a
clear head in the day time so I can work," he said.

Jackson also accepted that he supplied the drug to his wife. Christchurch
GP Brett Mann told the court that Jackson was one of several patients he
had seen who used cannabis medicinally, which lacked the serious
side-effects seen in some other drugs.

"From my perspective, it appeared that this had worked reasonably well.
Cannabis relieved upper abdominal pain and also had a significant calming
effect," he said.

Jackson's business partner, who cannot be named due to the suppression
order, said Jackson was a pivotal member of the business but his bowel
condition was so bad that he lost 25kg and could only work a couple of
hours a day. About two years ago, Jackson's condition seemed to improve -
which he now attributes to Jackson beginning to use cannabis.


Pubdate: Sat, 13 Dec 2003
Source: Press, The (New Zealand)
Copyright: 2003 The Christchurch Press Company Ltd.
Contact: editorial@press.co.nz
Website: The Press News | Stuff.co.nz