A man accused of possessing 55 grams of cannabis escaped punishment yesterday after he told magistrates he needed the drug for health reasons.
Brad Stephens, 45, who lives with his two children, claimed smoking cannabis was a "medical necessity" which eased the pain of his crippling spinal condition. The case is believed to be one of the first in which magistrates have accepted medical reasons as a defence to possession of a large quantity of cannabis.
Carmarthen magistrates were told that police found the class B drug in a raid on Mr Stephens' home. He owned up to being a regular cannabis user but denied the charge of possessing the drug. His solicitor, Mike Reed, told the court: "Mr Stephens suffers from ... a degenerative bone disease of the upper spine and neck." He said that although his client has been prescribed morphine to combat the pain his body had built up a resistance so that he required increasing doses. "Large doses of morphine can seriously damage health so by taking cannabis he reduces his dependency on morphine and the potentially fatal risk. In effect, the cannabis is saving his life," said Mr Stephens.
The magistrates accepted it was a medical necessity for Mr Stephens to take the drug and found him not guilty of possession. But they ordered the cannabis to be destroyed. Mr Reed said afterwards: "We needed to prove that the cannabis was doing more than simply easing his symptoms. There is a legal defence of necessity but it is very difficult to succeed with." He said he believed it was the first case in which magistrates had acquitted someone solely on medical grounds.