Disabled man walks free after drug conviction

A disabled former rock drummer walked free from court today after being convicted of growing cannabis which he took to treat a medical condition.

Edwin Stratton, 44, from east London, grew the plants to help alleviate the symptoms of the debilitating condition coeliac disease.

He was today handed a three-month suspended sentence after police found him growing a number of the plants at his home in February 2008.

His condition forced him to abandon his career with the rock band One Minute Silence. He now walks with a stick and is in constant pain because of his condition.

Mr Stratton was found guilty last month at Snaresbrook Crown Court in east London of cultivating the drug.

Passing sentence today Judge Tudor Owen said a custodial sentence was unavoidable but added that he was satisfied that Mr Stratton had been cultivating the drugs for what he believed were medical reasons.

He explained: "I take into account your impeccable character and that you were not intending to supply this to anyone else and that you were taking it for what you perceived to be good medical reasons.

"I believe what you say and have no reason to doubt the honesty of what you told me.

"I'm satisfied the major part of your motivation was for medical reasons."

Outlining the daily symptoms of Mr Stratton's condition, which is a form of severe gluten allergy, James Hines, defending, told the court: "He suffers from tremors, constant pain and nausea.

"If he so much as smells fresh bread from a bakery it would be likely to put him out of action for two to three days.

"During those days it can get as bad as him being unable to move and shaking and vomiting. He would require assistance just to get on to his feet."

He added: "By 2004 he was unable to continue his music career. His pain and nausea had become so intolerable that he had effectively stopped working."

Mr Hines said the condition forces Mr Stratton to take a "huge cocktail" of around 50 pills per day, including strong pain killers and anti-depressants, which bring a wide range of side effects.

He added: "Cannabis is capable of replacing all of that medication."

Police found the drugs in Mr Stratton's home in Leyton, east London, following a fire at a nearby restaurant. He was offered a police caution but refused it on principle.

After he was charged, he launched a legal challenge, arguing that the application of the Misuse of Drugs Act against him was discriminatory because other drugs such as cigarettes and alcohol are legal.

His application for a judicial review was turned down in the High Court last year.

The court heard today that leading doctors at an acute pain treatment centre had prescribed him with cannabis-based medication to help alleviate his symptoms, but his local NHS foundation trust had refused to pay for the treatment.

Speaking after the case, Mr Stratton said he would take his case to the Court of Appeal.

He said: "I need to articulate the discrimination in a legal sense. Cannabis is less harmful than legally available alternatives both to the individual and to society, which the Government have acknowledged.

"A custodial sentence is entirely unjust, even by their own yardstick, so I call upon the Government to make the changes that are necessary and ensure justice, equal human rights, equal protection under the law."

He said he would now be forced to buy cannabis on the street which would put his safety at risk and could result in him buying the drug cut with dangerous substances such as iron filings and glass.

He explained: "If I don't, life is intolerable. I have no choice."

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