Thursday 14 December 2017

Family man grew cannabis because he could no longer afford to buy it

Sonya McLean

A FAMILY man who grew cannabis because he could no longer afford to feed his long standing addiction has avoided a jail term at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.

Philip Shortall (54) had been a heavy cannabis user for 20 years.

When his poster making business suffered due to the economic downturn, he could no longer afford to buy the drug so he started to grow it from seeds he had purchased from a head shop.

Garda Andrew Gibbons told Tara Burns BL, prosecuting, that gardai searched Cookstown Enterprise Park following a tip off and noticed a distinct smell of cannabis in the air close to particular units.

These buildings were searched and 33 cannabis plants and two bags of cannabis herb were discovered in the upstairs of a building which Shortall had been leasing. Equipment used to grow the drugs such as heat lamps were also found.

Shortall’s home was also searched after gardai found documentation in the building with his address on it. He made immediate admissions and said he had been growing the cannabis for his own use.

Shortall of Ashfield Park, Terenure pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to cultivation of cannabis on June 25, 2011. The plants were valued at €13,200 while the herb had a street value of €3,420.

Judge Martin Nolan said it was a serious offence to grow cannabis even for a person’s own use but said in all the circumstances it would be unjust to jail Shortall.

He sentenced him to 15 months which he suspended on strict conditions.

Gda Gibbons agreed with Lorcan Staines BL, defending, that his client was a hardworking family man who has no previous convictions.

He accepted that gardai are satisfied that he was not dealing or supplying the cannabis and that he is “absolutely apologetic” for his actions.

Mr Staines described it as a “very unusual and unique case” in which Shortall had only been charged with possession of a significant quantity of drugs.

He said his client had been working very long hours at the time in his poster making business but was still not earning enough money to support his cannabis habit so he decided to grow it.

Counsel said Shortall “is now clean for the first time in 20 years”.

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