Former taxi driver Liam Jones’ 75 home-grown cannabis plants were almost ready to be cropped when the police showed up.
Jones, 44, initially claimed that the 6.3 kilo load of the substance was for his own personal use after he turned to the drug to help alleviate his chronic back pain.
However, prosecutors rejected his statement that he would have consumed the lot as it would have taken him years to get through it and he went on to confess he would have sold some of it to help cover his costs, reports Chronicle Live.
Neil Jones, prosecuting, said police went to an address on Walker Park Close, Walker, and followed their noses to sniff out the strong smell of the farm.
He told Newcastle Crown Court : “There were a large amount of wires and cables in the loft and ventilation tubes.
“Pictures show the professionalism and expense of setting it up.”
Jones attended the police station on July 3 last year and said he initially tried to grow cannabis the previous year but the plants failed.
Mr Jones said: “He said he had a condition from a spinal injury and to some extent it was to alleviate his pain and symptoms.”
The court heard the plants would have yielded between 2.1 kilos and 6.3 kilos, worth up to £31,500.
The prosecutor added: “The officer took the view this was a well-organised and sophisticated set up, suggesting a degree of expertise.
“The cost of construction and maintenance of a cannabis growth area in the loft was an an expensive and major undertaking.
“The officer went on to consider the habitual user and how much he might consume and he took the view he didn’t expect the habitual user to produce this much entirely for personal use.”
Mr Jones said Jones said he was struggling to afford cannabis from a dealer to manage his pain and so decided to grow it.
He added: “Which begs the question, if he couldn’t afford a dealer, how could he afford the capital for a very sophisticated growth construction in the loft.”
Asked how it came to light, Mr Jones said: “The tenant was his mother-in-law. She said she was being denied access and she blew the whistle on him in terms of production.”
Jones pleaded guilty to producing cannabis and was sentenced to 14 months suspended for two years with a three month curfew between 7pm and 7am and a rehabilitation requirement.
Recorder Andrew Smith told him: “It seems it’s the home of your mother-in-law and in response to a complaint by her that was not followed up by a formal statement, police attended there to find cannabis was being grown in the attic.
“There was simply too much for anyone to use for personal use. It would have taken you several years to get through that crop.
“There’s no doubt you have a significant disability that causes you ongoing pain and you have had the chronic condition for a long time.
“The court does not condone, in any way, the use of cannabis to alleviate that condition. You are expected to speak to your GP, who will provide the best medication and in some limited circumstances approved medicinal cannabis might be made available.”
The judge said he would suspend the sentence for reasons including the fact he has a young family who would suffer if he was imprisoned.
But he told him: “It’s serious offending and brings all sorts of problems into the community.
“It’s not the panacea you think it is.”
Tony Cornberg, defending, said: “He has chronic pain.
“He was a taxi driver for 20 years and had to give that particular job up.
“He describes constant agony and is on medication that doesn’t really help, which led to the commission of this offence.
“He has metal rods and four screws in his spine. He describes is as a bit like scaffolding.”
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