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Mother avoids jail over growing drugs for medical relief

By Maldon Chronicle  |  Posted: May 31, 2012

  • IN PAIN: Michelle Scarlett was spared jail for growing 59 cannabis plants

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A MOTHER of three has been spared jail for growing 59 cannabis plants after convincing a judge that the drug helped relieve her ME symptoms.

Former British weightlifting champion Michelle Scarlett, of Colchester Road, Heybridge, was confined to her bed for three years after developing the extreme fatigue and muscle pain syndrome.

But after discovering cannabis could make her feel better, the 50-year-old began growing the drug in an upstairs bedroom of her family home.

Speaking to the Chronicle, Ms Scarlett, who is a Reiki healer and martial-arts expert, said: "I first started getting ill about five years ago and was just in a really dark place. Someone offered me cannabis and it took the pain away."

After admitting at Chelmsford Crown Court to growing the drugs, Judge Anthony Goldstaub QC, sentenced Ms Scarlett on Monday to a 12-month jail sentence suspended for two years.

He said: "You had a cannabis production system set up at your home, in the bedroom.

"People normally do so to supply, but I am satisfied yours was an exceptional case.

"You needed it for your own pain and I accept you were using it for your medical condition.

"But let no one suppose growing your own cannabis would normally result in anything other than a custodial sentence."

After winning a number of national championships for her powerlifting, Ms Scarlett gave up the sport when she fell ill.

She added: "I was confined to my bedroom for about three years and went up to 17-and-a-half stone.

"I'd always been so active with my sports and used to train every day so, when I became ill, I just felt absolutely devastated.

"I was a doorwoman in London for 15 years and had never even thought about drugs before, but when I was in so much pain and none of the medication doctors tried to make me take helped, someone offered me cannabis.

"After I smoked it I felt instantly relieved and it really took the edge off my pain.

"I was able to get out of bed and start training again, which was absolutely brilliant.

"I didn't want to get into having to buy my drugs from dealers in the street so I decided to grow some plants myself."

After researching how to grow the drug on the internet, Ms Scarlett set up her cannabis production – including lamps and ventilators – in an upstairs bedroom.

She continued: "About four officers came to my house and found everything. I said it was for my ME but they didn't seem to care.

"I got arrested and had to go to court about three times.

"I was so nervous when I went to court on Monday. I thought I was going to prison.

"My oldest son had already taken my dog so he got used to living there because I was sure I wasn't coming home.

"When the judge said he would suspend my sentence, I just couldn't believe it. He seemed really understanding and knew I wasn't a druggie but was using the drugs to help my illness.

"Obviously I've had to get rid of all the plants but I'll still smoke my weed.

"I smoke it about three times a day and it takes away all the pains in my muscles, which are usually excruciating.

"I don't regret what I've done because it's given me my life back – I call it my 'food of wisdom' and it's helped me live my life again."

Ms Scarlet was fitted with an electronic tag and must stick to a curfew from 6pm to 3am for three months.

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  • Tevion1974  |  June 01 2012, 10:21PM

    The judge is a pilchard with no courage or morals, these people should not be judging folks on a medication which can help an individual, it is wrong wrong wrong!

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  • stevea62  |  June 01 2012, 3:59PM

    59 plants is not a big figure for an MS sufferer. The government have not told us how they arrived at their figures but if you try and read between the lines of their sentencing guidelines, they say that 9 plants grown by someone with a prescription for medical cannabis should be ignored for criminal purposes. This equates to a regular supply of around a gram a day. MS sufferers typically use a lot, sometimes as much as 5 or 6g daily. 59 plants, assuming they were all females, would be bang on the money as correct for supplying their very specific needs.

    |   7
  • Focusonpeace  |  June 01 2012, 3:43PM

    paolodicks I agree 59 is a lot, But What made you think every one of those 59 plants where ready for harvest? Different cannabis strains mature at different times. 59 plants may of included clones, seedlings, mother plants, and of course mature plants. So to say each and every plant had flowers and was ready for harvest is misleading. Its medicine, and if i had a problem that only cannabis could help with, since I don't know how to grow i would plant as many seeds as i could, as room for error. Keeping only the best looking plants, culling the ones that didn't make the grade. Only because it said ''growing 59 cannabis plants'' in the title doesn't mean she would of had 59 plants worth of cannabis flowers ready to smoke. Thats where the media mislead and some people fall for it. In my personal opinion anyway..

    |   6
  • paolodicks  |  June 01 2012, 1:19PM

    59 plants! that would yeald alot more than she would be able to smoke unless she was growing enough for a good few years worth at a time, now 4 or 5 plants I could see, it being just for herself, maybe, but 59? to play the card she has 59 plants is too many for personal use in my opinion, even though she says it was for "medical reasons" growing that much at one time can't be justified for her reasons and the way I see it she's had a result here

    |   -7
  • stevea62  |  June 01 2012, 1:33AM

    Well done that judge, for showing that cultivation of cannabis for use as a personal tonic should not result in imprisonment. A pity he cold not throw the case out but the law is the law and this young woman broke it. Equally a pity that in order to continue with her use of cannabis for symptom relief the only victim of this crime must now resort to buying her medicine on the streets from an unknown source.

    |   5
  • Focusonpeace  |  May 31 2012, 2:49PM

    So the government allow GW pharma to grow cannabis, then its safe medicine for people suffering from MS and more. But when a 'civilian' does it, its an evil, harmful and bad plant that causes psychosis. Shows you its more about politics than science and evidence. I do not condone law breaking, but many agree its an unjust law which makes no sense. Prohibition causes way more harm than any drug could, especially more harm than the safest recreational drug of them all(i consider booze and cigs drugs as well) She was growing plants safer than tobacco and alcohol, she wasn't giving dealers her money and contributing to the black market. She was doing it in the privacy of her own home. I think the law needs to be changed, because the amount of time and money they waste on personal cannabis grows cannot be justified. Especially when GW Pharma grow tons of high grade cannabis in the South of England at the same time there throwing harmless people in jail for growing the same plant. Disgusting.

    |   12
  • bearddread  |  May 31 2012, 12:45PM

    That judge deserves a prize of some sort. I'm glad she didn't get a custodial sentence, and cases like this set a precedent for the future. In all honesty, I hope she starts growing again because it's morally reprehensible to deny her something that helps her condition.

    |   17