Australia Court's OK for 'medical' cannabis

September 16, 2004

Gavin Lower, The Mercury (Australia)

A HOBART magistrate has decided not to penalise a man who pleaded guilty to cannabis offences -- because he was using the drug for medicinal purposes.

The unusual case saw magistrate Sam Mollard decide not to fine, jail or impose a bond on Moonah man Campbell John Watt, 55, for using and growing cannabis.

'Just a few times in the 15 years I've been doing this job I have come across a case, yours is one, where I have been convinced that the person standing where you're now standing is actually using cannabis for a specific and good reason,' Mr Mollard told Watt.

Watt's lawyer, Stuart Walter, told Mr Mollard his client had been using cannabis to relieve the symptoms of Crohn's disease.

He said that in some states of the US Crohn's disease, a painful inflammation of the bowel, was included on lists of diseases where the use of cannabis was permitted to treat symptoms. 

Mr Mollard said the last time he saw a case of cannabis being used for a medical purpose was 10 years ago in Devonport.

He said such cases were unusual because a person had to convince a magistrate that they had tried all lawful methods of treatment.

Watt was discovered growing cannabis and with several small bags of the drug.

He pleaded guilty to two charges of possessing a controlled plant or its products, cultivating a controlled plant and using a controlled plant or its product.

Mr Mollard said that while Watt had been found with 'a fair bit' of cannabis, the amount he was growing was consistent with his reason for doing it.

He said that while he would usually impose a large fine or suspended jail term for such an offence, he did not believe they were appropriate in Watt's case.

Watt was convicted on each charge but no other penalty was imposed.

Attorney-General Judy Jackson said Watt's case was an example of judicial discretion which allowed courts to consider cases on their merits.

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