Three people who supplied thousands of chocolate bars laced with cannabis to multiple sclerosis sufferers walked free from court today.
Mark Gibson, 42, his wife Lezley, 42, who has multiple sclerosis (MS), and Marcus Davies, 36, were each given a nine-month jail term, suspended for two years.
All three defendants argued that the drug eased the symptoms of MS and believed they had a defence of medical necessity but this was rejected by a jury last month.
Sentencing today at Carlisle Crown Court, Judge John Phillips said he accepted their motives were "altruistic", that they had a genuine desire to help people who were suffering and that no profit was made from the operation.
The judge said that current sentencing guidelines substantiated a significant custodial sentence but he accepted there were exceptional circumstances in this case, although he disagreed that a conditional discharge was appropriate.
He said: "The conspiracy to supply drugs took place over a number of years in what was a sophisticated operation in which several kilograms of cannabis were distributed."
All three were convicted of two counts each of conspiring to supply cannabis throughout 2004 and until February 2005.
The "cottage industry" made and supplied 20,000 of the Canna-Biz bars, each containing around 2g (0.07oz) of the drug.
The customers made a donation to cover costs and had to provide a medical note confirming their condition.
The Gibsons, of Alston, Cumbria, insisted it was a free service and they made no secret of their activity, with advertisements in both the regional and national media.
Cumbria Police were also said to have been aware of their operation.
Cash receipts totalling £30,000 were seized but Mrs Gibson told officers the money had been ploughed back into production of the bars.
Davies, of St Ives, Cambridgeshire, admitted running a website and post office box for the not-for-profit organisation Therapeutic Help from Cannabis for Multiple Sclerosis, thc4ms.org, but had denied any involvement in making or posting the chocolates.
Before sentence was passed, Andrew Ford, representing Mrs Gibson, said the protracted legal proceedings had taken its toll on his client.
He said: "She does not agree with drug use but feels this particular drug was the only medicine that helped her.
"This condition will be with her forever. She is in pain every day.
"As a result of this case she has unfortunately started a course of anti-depressants."
Outside court, Mrs Gibson said she was "very disappointed" at the judge's ruling.
She said: "I was devastated when we were found guilty and this decision has broken me again.
"I still don't think I've done anything wrong. How can it be wrong to try and help ill people? What kind of Government lets people suffer in this way?
"The people that used to use our service are now forced to go to the street dealers and buy contaminated cannabis."
The Gibsons added that they were planning to launch an appeal against their conviction.Reuse content