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Wells man grew enough cannabis to keep heavy smoker going for 11 years

By Wells Journal  |  Posted: November 29, 2012

Cannabis plants hanging up to dry

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A man who turned his rented Wells city centre flat into a cannabis factory capable of producing thousands of pounds worth of the drug has been jailed for three years.

The "sophisticated set-up" was discovered when police carried out a search in Priory Road on December 11 last year.

The first-floor flat above an estate agency and former post office belongs to Wells City Council and is leased to a local businessman. It was rented from him by 45-year-old Paul Fox who used a false name.

Fox was in the lounge when police burst in, Taunton Crown Court was told.

They found 600 cannabis cuttings weighing 3.15 kilos and with a street value of over £23,000 in the process of being dried, and there were also 60 juvenile plants growing there with a potential yield of 2.7 kilos worth over £19,000, said William Hunter, prosecuting.

Fox was arrested and admitted growing cannabis for his own use.

An expert estimated there was enough to last a heavy smoker about 11 years.

Mr Hunter said: "It was clearly a commercial production and crops were being grown in rotation.

"It was a professional setup. He said he was the only person responsible and no one else had access to his flat."

Fox, who had two previous convictions for possessing cannabis in the 1990s, was also in possession of 0.49 grams of cocaine.

Harry Ahuja, defending, said the prosecution's figures were based on valuations in 2000 and the cannabis was now worth about £19,000.

Fox had decided to sell the lot in bulk for about £5,000 to clear "spiralling" debts including the cost of setting up the production and the electricity bill. He was not selling small amounts to make a profit. He had been out of trouble since 1998 and had "issues" with cannabis for 20 years.

He said Fox was now living in Kidderminster and had taken over running a relative's building business, which was doing very well. He was well regarded and highly thought of.

His third wife, a Thai national whom he had known for two years, was now four months pregnant. He had eight biological children and a number of stepchildren and was under no illusion his future was in the balance.

It was the first time Fox had grown cannabis and it was intended for his own use but had spiralled out of control into a large quantity which he had to sell on.

Mr Ahuja asked for a community order with drug rehabilitation and said the court could be confident he would not re-offend.

Recorder Jonathan Fuller QC said Fox had pleaded guilty to possessing a small amount of cocaine and being concerned in the production of cannabis.

Police had found three tents inside his flat and the cannabis operation was clearly financial with plants being grown in rotation.

Mr Fuller told Fox: "You had arranged it under a false name and your initial intention had been to sell the cannabis in order to alleviate your debts and have cannabis for yourself. There were several thousand pounds worth of costs involved and you were clearly planning on a further harvest."

Jailing Fox for three years, the judge said: "The pre-sentence report and character references say you are a hard-working family man and this degree of criminal conduct is out of character. I would be failing in my duty if I did not pass a custodial sentence."

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  • SourAlienOG  |  December 01 2012, 12:16AM

    Supporting cannabis prohibition, supports what drug dealers support.

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  • gcmercier  |  November 30 2012, 7:25PM

    The war on drugs is a costly failure. It has not reduced the demand or supply of drugs, and instead this war on drugs has turned otherwise law-abiding citizens into criminals. Consuming cannabis is a victimless crime. Studies have demonstrated it is safer than either tobacco or alcohol. The UK government needs to stop wasting our taxes on diverting the police's attention from real crimes that harm society and have victims, and then incarcerating working people and turning them into dependants of our taxes while they waste years away in prison. It is great time we legalise cannabis and regulate and tax it the way we do with alcohol and tobacco.

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  • basstraffic  |  November 30 2012, 4:31PM

    Sorry but this so called expert, did they fail GCSE Maths? 180 ounces in total, an ounce per week, which is what i could easily smoke when I was a heavy caner, that's 3 and a half years. If it was up to me this so called expert would be getting done for purgery. Yes the point is that it's a tad more than what you'd need for personal but if they have to lie in court to get a conviction how does that make them any better than the person in the dock, who I might add, did not actually commit any crime if we are to use the definition that a crime requires a victim. Unlike the testimony of this so called expert, who knowingly lied in court and caused a man to lose his liberty. Isn't it about time we used logic to determine what happens in these cases instead of the usual tabloid fearmongering?

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  • JustExtreme  |  November 30 2012, 3:54PM

    I love how they throw the numbers around like oh wow this cannabis was worth thousands of £ but fail to point out that the only reason it is worth that much is because it is in demand and forced into a black market hence the price is inflated.

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  • achesandpains  |  November 30 2012, 3:48PM

    This man had no victims. GW Pharma sell cannabis in a bottle (Sativex - Nabiximols) worldwide. Their product is no different to what his chap was growing. They are not prosecuted, nor are they sent to prison for 3 years at a cost of approx £130,000, nor do they have victims. They have patients! This chap will probably lose his business and job and probably end up claiming benefits because he will have a criminal record. All for a bit of creative gardening, no different to big pharma. The only difference is he didn't have a licence.

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  • PoetPeter  |  November 30 2012, 3:19PM

    This is a brutal and totally disproportionate sentence. On 6th November 2012 Colorado and Washington state legalised cannabis for adults! Are we so stupid in Britain that we cannot learn the lessons of history? If we prohibit something for which there is huge demand then the price rises and violent criminals become involved. If we introduced a legally regulated system we would solve nearly all the problems around cannabis. Science proves how much safer it is than tobacco, alcohol, prescription medicines and all other recreational drugs. The evidence is that where legal regulation is introduced, consumption by children and all health and social harms are reduced. Doctors would be able to prescribe one of the most effective medicines that has no serious side effects at all. At the moment the government has given GW Pharmaceuticals an illegal monopoly on cannabis so they make millions out of a medicine that you can grow in your greenhouse for virtually nothing. Independent, expert research also indicates that a tax and regulate policy on cannabis would produce a net gain to the UK economy of up to £9.3 billion pa. Our present policy on cannabis is irrational, irresponsible and dangerous. Surely, this inevitable and long overdue reform will now begin to roll out across the world?

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