Green politician's drug conviction overturned

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The Independent Online

The Green Party's spokesman on drugs had his sentence for growing cannabis overturned yesterday when a judge ruled that he had cultivated the plants for medicinal use to treat his bad back.

Shane Collins, 41, was sentenced to six weeks in prison last month following the discovery of 19 marijuana plants in the basement of his home in Brixton, south London.

After winning his appeal at Inner London Crown Court, Mr Collins said: "I feel very frustrated at having made six visits to court, spent five days in prison and occupied eight police officers. It has been a huge waste of public money over 19 little seeds.

"If people could grow their own cannabis they would not need to buy it on the streets."

The court was told how Mr Collins, who has two previous convictions for aggravated trespass and breach of the peace in connection with anti-road building protests at Newbury and Twyford Down, was arrested in February when police discovered fluorescent lighting, fans and the cannabis plants in his home.

Ruth Brander, for the defence, told the court that only five of the plants had been expected to reach maturity. She also said that smoking the drug eased Mr Collins's back injury. She said: "Mr Collins has admitted to me he does not smoke cannabis purely for medicinal purposes, but he does have a bad back. He has a rotated vertebra for which he requires treatment."

Judge Philpot, sitting with two JPs, granted Mr Collins his appeal in the light of the fact that he used the drug to ease his back problem and had no previous drug-related convictions.

Jenny Jones, the Green Party Deputy Mayor of London, said: "The circumstances of Shane's arrest sound like a dangerous U-turn in government thinking on the issue of cannabis legal reform."

Mr Collins has been the party's drugs spokesman for six years.