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No jail after Cabinet drug stunt

BBC News, 6th September 2006

A drugs campaigner who sent a cannabis plant to Tony Blair and his cabinet has been given a suspended sentence.

Jeffrey Ditchfield's eight-month term was suspended for 18 months after he was convicted of offences including possessing and supplying cannabis.

Ditchfield, 40, of Rhyl, Denbighshire, was also ordered to pay more than £7,000 in costs at Mold Crown Court.

Outside court he said: "I will not pay a penny of the costs to help fund the prohibition on the use of cannabis."

In July, he was convicted of seven drugs offences, including attempting to supply John Reid - now home secretary, but then defence minister - with a cannabis plant.

The court heard he had actually sent plants to the prime minister and every member of his cabinet, urging them to change the law on cannabis.

Recorder Steven Everett sentenced Ditchfield for a variety of offences between 2004 and 2005.

Custody warning
Ditchfield was also ordered to carry out 250 hours' unpaid work, and told to stay out of trouble for the full 18 months. He was also ordered to pay costs of £7,630 within 28 days.

If he broke the law, or the orders, the judge said: "Then you will have no one to blame but yourself if you go down the steps to custody."

Ditchfield had been campaigning for cannabis to be available for medicinal purposes.

He said his campaign was now over because cannabis-based medicines were being considered.

But he said: "I will not pay a penny of the costs to help fund the prohibition on the use of cannabis.

"The NHS should have been doing what I was doing. I have seen so many people, friends in wheelchairs, going to prison for their crimes - and their only crimes are to grow cannabis plants to alleviate their discomfort and pain.

"I would pay the costs if someone could identify a victim of my crime."

Ditchfield, who still faces a proceeds of crime investigation, added: "I don't regret doing what I did but the campaign is now over. It is no longer a part of my life.

"From 1971 until a recent announcement doctors were unable to use a cannabis-based medication despite all the evidence that it was effective.

"All of a sudden that has changed and I think that I have played some part in that."

Ditchfield was earlier cleared of another charge of possessing £12,000 worth of hemp with intent to supply.

A co-defendant, arthritis sufferer David Newton, 48, from Prestatyn, admitted cultivating cannabis and possession with intent to supply, and was given a conditional discharge.

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