A PENSIONER who grew his own cannabis crop to ease the pain of his arthritis was spared jail.
Stephen Hedley was arrested after police discovered 51 cannabis plants growing in his Hartlepool home.
The 67-year-old said he set up the farm himself because his official arthritis medication was not working.
Hedley told Teesside Crown Court he put cannabis in chocolate brownies or smoked it through a pipe but had not yet harvested his own crop when he was arrested.
He was given a suspended prison sentence after he admitted production of a class B drug and illegally abstracting electricity.
Prosecutor David Crook told the court: “None of the plants had come to full maturity but they were heading in that direction.
“It appeared to be a succession of grows that would yield eventually a reasonably substantial amount of cannabis.”
The Crown Prosecution Service did not accept Heldley’s basis of plea that he set up the cannabis farm on his own given his arthritis.
He said he suffered with the painful disease in his hips and ankles and the condition had got worse over the last year.
But prosecutors were unable to produce any concrete evidence and the judge accepted Hedley’s account.
Recorder Amanda Rippon said: “Whilst the suspicions are well founded with the absence of proper evidence on which I could say I was sure I am going to find in Mr Hedley’s account that he was acting alone and the cannabis was for his own use.”
Hedley, a former scaffolder, told the court he decided to grow his own because he did not like going to drug dealers.
Rod Hunt, mitigating, said he had learned his lesson and added: “The defendant does appreciate the serious nature of the offence.”
Hedley, of Friar Terrace, Hartlepool, was given nine- month prison suspended for 12 months with probation supervision.
Recorder Rippon said: “When police went to your home they found what was a small, modest cannabis farm in the basement of your accommodation.
“You were hoping and optimistic for a crop you were going to grow yourself because you unfortunately suffer from a very debilitating illness arthritis.
“You decided to self medicate with an illegal substance. You can’t do that.
“It is extremely important that you learn a lesson here. Many people cope with the disease you have without resorting to breaking the law and you are going to have to.”