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.