A Somerset Magistrate has threatened violent physical punishment if patient is caught treating his depression with cannabis again.
It sounds like something you would read in a Dickens or Roald Dahl’s The Twits, when one of the characters has been caught doing something bad. Sadly, this is the threatening language used by Magistrate Jeffrey Collingwood who saw the case of Michael Dyer in November 2017.
In an article published on Somerset Live’s website, it is reported that the police stopped Michael Dyer, 23 in his car and in a search uncovered 15g of herbal cannabis.
Michael Dyer, in his defense, stated that he used cannabis as a medicine to treat depression, a common use listed by medical patients who can legally access cannabis in Canada through a Federal Medical Marihuana program, over 23 states in the US that have legalised Medical Marijuana use, the Netherlands and Israel who also have legal government sanctioned medical cannabis.
Mr Dyer bought the 15g “in bulk” from a friend. This means he didn’t interact with violent criminals to get his cannabis, and by buying 15g instead of 1 or 2 grams he doesn’t have to travel every day to buy cannabis- putting him at more risk of getting caught and probably saved £20-40.
Unfortunately on this occasion he was caught.
Presiding the case, Jeffrey Collingwood did not accept this as mitigation and ruled that Michael would receive a £100 fine, £40 costs, a £30 victim surcharge, and his medicine be destroyed. The Magistrate then added
“If you come back to court again on a similar charge I will recognise you and it will turn bad then.”
Quite what having possession of 15 grams of cannabis (equivalent of £100 street value) deserves needing the kind of threat you hear off a bad British police TV drama for we don’t know, but what followed was like hearing a school headmaster from the 70’s.
“You deserve a good slap on the back of the legs.”
The only truly appropriate reaction to this is “how preposterous!?”
Are Magistrates allowed to say this kind of thing or is it just accepted court humour? And who is finding it funny? It would certainly go against Mr Dyers Human Rights, just how would this act of corporal punishment go down?. If Jeffrey Collingwood feels like he has to play a part, he is probably letting the role go to his head.
As if breaking up with your girlfriend isn’t bad enough, getting caught buying your illegal medicine and having it taken off you even worse – for the judge to try and make an example out of you for it…kind of pathetic.
Accompanying the article on Somerset Live was a video of Jeffrey Collingwood ironically discussing Sentencing Guidelines – a set of advice that tells magistrates how to punish relative to the severity of the offence. SO it is strange he doesn’t actually understand the concept or isn’t aware that these are publicaly available.
UKCSC have studied these Sentencing Guidelines very carefully when we wrote our guidelines on running a Cannabis Social Club and the advice it gives its members. Nowhere does it refer to beatings on the back of the legs.
The sentencing Guidelines also state that up to 100g is a personal amount of cannabis.
UK Cannabis Social Clubs Chairman, Greg de Hoedt says, “This case should have never landed in front of a court.”
“Police guidelines state that personal amounts of cannabis should be dealt with in the way of the three strike street warning system, whereby, you are given a ticketed warning for your first offence, a £90 street fine on your second and on your third you can be arrested.
“Unless Mr Dyer was on his third strike there seem to be no reason for Somerset officers to make an arrest and push to prosecute this nonviolent 23 year old.”
This scheme has helped raise revenue for the Police via street fines rather than them bringing every cannabis case to court and congesting the system with victimless crimes.
“The advice to members is to not carry more than 99g with them if they must buy in quantity, but sensibly, never travel with more cannabis than needed on them during the time they are away from their home.” added Stuart Harper, Political Liaison for the UKCSC.
Cannabis Social Clubs have appeared in a number of European and South American countries as a way for cannabis consumers to more safely grow and share their cannabis to avoid more black market and antisocial interactions. A number of countries have decriminalised personal use such as Czech Republic and Portugal who treat personal drug use as a health matter instead of a criminal justice one. Incidentally, 15 grams of cannabis is the personal possession limit of the Czech Republics personal decriminalisation law.
Alistair Burrell, Chairman of the Bristol Cannabis Club, the largest in the west of the UK said “Cases like this highlight exactly why cannabis regulation is a medical and health matter and not a legal matter. What does a magistrate really know about depression and the desperation it can cause leading to self medication?
“It’s a good job that this man was able to find cannabis as other alternatives such as alcohol and valium could have had really bad results.”
“The magistrates fine and threats towards an already desperate and unhappy man are sadly more likely to cause a downward spiral than any positive result and seem to be born out of spite/anger and misinformation that the man has challenged a law which all the scientific and medical evidence supports.”
“The penalty also contains a victims surcharge for a victimless crime? Now that should be illegal!”
Bristol activist Alistair makes an important point here about the impact being arrested can have on a person, as in this particular case if we lived in a society that treated drugs as a heath issue, the defendant would have the chance to say why they have turned to using cannabis and maybe offered talking therapy to help them move on from the depression caused by a life situation – that many young men, historically, find hard to talk about. And let’s not pretend we aren’t in a mental health epidemic with serious consequences here.
Fortunately Michael Dyer has not left the courtroom with a criminal record but the stigma of being put through the system for less than an ounce of cannabis can be harder to shake.
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