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Cannabis Campaign: Why the law is an ass

The Alice in Wonderland world of cannabis law enforcement produced two very different responses from judges in court last week, writes Tarquin Cooper.

Last Wednesday an Old Bailey judge claimed cannabis was responsible for turning a man into a rapist. He said there was little other explanation for him committing the offence other than his addiction to the drug.

Judge Michael Coombe said it was "likely" that "the large amount of hashish taken by the defendent contributed to his offence.

"There is no doubt in my mind that a great deal of the explanation lies in his indulgence of this dangerous and prohibited drug," he said.

He explained that the defendent, Lee Robinson, was not considered dangerous and had no previous convictions. Earlier the court was told how Robinson, from Walthamstow, East London, had mixed the hash with the anti-depressant Prozac before raping a 23- year-old graduate in Wanstead, East London. Robinson, a timber yard labourer, pleaded guilty to rape and was sentenced to eight years in prison

On the same day in Sheffield, a judge showed clemency towards a man convicted of cultivating cannabis because his wife suffers from terrible back pain caused by MS. It is one of the rare occasions where using cannabis for medical reasons has been successfully used to provide mitigating circumstances.

Instead of handing down a 12-month prison sentence, the usual term, judge Robert Bartfield fined the defendent John McShane, 41, pounds 1000 and ordered him to pay pounds 250 costs.

He told him: "It would be inhumane to send you to prison. Your wife suffers from a wasting disease and you did this in your desire to alleviate her suffering."

The judge explained that in normal circumstances, if the defendent had been selling cannabis professionally, he would have had no hesitation in handing down a custodial sentence for at least a year.