A pensioner was caught with hundreds of pounds worth of cannabis by police while they investigated a knife-weilding intruder at his home.
Grandfather-of-three Maurice DeMarco, 73, said the drugs - worth an estimated £1200 - were purely for himself and his friends to use as an alcohol substitute.
He had originally called police after an attempted robbery at his Portobello home - but hadn't bargained on officers searching his property and finding the Class C drugs and a sophisticated cultivation system.
De Marco insisted to police it was
a non-commercial pursuit and claimed he had never sold any of his crop.
However, he still found himself up at court accused with supplying controlled drugs.
Yesterday at Edinburgh Sheriff Court, ex-soldier DeMarco plead guilty to the charge and was handed 100 hours of community service. Sheriff Derrick McIntyre said "Supply of drugs is a very serious matter."
The court heard how DeMarco had been sitting in his flat when intruders broke in and demanded drugs from him in November last year.
He refused on the grounds that he did not supply drugs to others and managed to contact the police.
However, when they arrived at is home, an overwhelming smell of cannabis led officers to grow suspicious and they decided to search the property.
Bemused DeMarco couldn't refuse and led the police to a bedroom filled with cannabis plants, heating panels, weighing scales and other drug paraphernalia.
Police also found around £720 in cash and books on how to grow cannabis.
DeMarco insisted that he had grown the plants for personal use and sometimes gave some of the drugs he had produced away to friends for free.
He claimed that there had been no financial gain in his actions, and that he had originally learned how to cultivate the plants when a friend had fallen ill.
He said the elderly smokers had used the drugs as a cheaper substitute for alcohol.
DeMarco also told police there were so many cannabis plants in his house because they were all at different stages - like a vegetable garden - and only one plant was ever used at a time.
He said he believed growing his own crop meant he didn't have to get involved in the criminal scene.
"He had a triple bypass in recent years and is comparatively frail.
"Mr DeMarco is incredibly embarrassed by this situation. It has embarrassed him and his family."
Consfication of the money found in the raid was not sought after it emerged it was his life savings and was not earned as a result of the cannabis crop.
He also revealed that his two smoking friends had since died and he no longer uses the Class C drug.
DeMarco had previously served in the army and had worked all his life.
He has five children and three grandchildren.
Scotsman.com News - Scotland -
A chemical found in cannabis can act like an antidepressant, researchers have found.
A team from Canada's University of Saskatchewan suggest the compound causes nerve cells to regenerate.
The Journal of Clinical Investigation study showed rats given a cannabinoid were less anxious and less depressed.
But UK experts warned other conflicting research had linked cannabis, and other cannabinoids, to an increased risk of depression and anxiety.
"This is a very big leap of faith"
Professor Robin Murray
Institute of Psychiatry
They suggested this could be because different cannabinoids acting at different levels have contradictory effects.
Cannabinoids have been shown to relieve the symptoms of multiple sclerosis and pain relief in humans.
They are naturally present in the body, as well as being found in cannabis.
The Canadian researchers gave rats injections of high levels of one artificial cannabinoid, HU210, for a month.
The animals were seen to have nerve cell regeneration in the hippo campus, which is linked to memory and emotions.
The hippo campus has been shown to generate new nerve cells throughout a person's or an amimal's life, but this is reduced if cells are engineered to lack a cannabinoid receptor protein CB- 1.
In the Canadian study, rats given the cannabinoid were also found to be less anxious, and more willing to eat food in new environments - a change which would normally frighten them.
However, research has previously linked the use of the drug cannabis to long-term damage to mental health, and to increase the risk of mental illness in those who are already genetically susceptible.
In addition, short-term high doses of cannabinoids had also been shown to produce anxiety-like effects in rats and depression-like effects in mice.
But other studies had found that low-doses of cannabinoids helped to reduce anxiety in rodents.
The Canadian team said "These complicated effects of high and low doses of acute and chronic exposure to cannabinoids may explain the seemingly conflicting results observed in clinical studies regarding the effects of cannabinoid on anxiety and depression".
'Raw cannabis is risky'
Professor Robin Murray, of the Institute of Psychiatry, questioned whether the anti-anxiety and antidepressant effects seen in the animals would be replicated in humans.
He said "This is a very big leap of faith as they have no data on humans, and the supposed animals' models of anxiety and depression that they used don't have much in common with the human conditions".
Paul Corry, Director of campaigns and communications at Rethink said "Cannabinoids are an exciting new area for medical research, but it is important to recognise that there are over 60 active ingredients in cannabis - synthetic cannabinoid may be showing evidence of nerve regeneration.
"But as also pointed out in this study, the effects of cannabis on the brain are complex and produce conflicting evidence.
"For most people with severe mental illness, raw cannabis remains a risky substance.
"All medical research needs to be checked before it would make a difference to the hundreds of thousands of people living with severe mental illness in the UK".
Story from BBC News
When a newly appointed minister arrives at his office in Whitehall, the first thing his permanent secretary gently tells him is to avoid simple answers to complex problems.
What I am about to say therefore guarantees that I will never be asked to join a government advisory panel or Royal Commission, but since I can earn a decent living without having to impress politicians, let me break the taboo. The fact is that many complex problems do have simple answers. What politicians mean when they say "There are no simple answers" is that the simple answers are not the same as easy ones. The easy answer to almost any political problem is to highlight its complexity, pleas for patience, appoint a policy czar and set up a Royal Commisssion. The simple answer is often to do something bold and previously unthinkable. In other words, to cut the Gordian knot instead of trying to untie it.
Simple answers have resolved many of most intractable problems. Gordon Brown should know this better than anyone, having rescued Labour's economic reputation by the simple, though far from easy or risk less expedient of Bank of England independence. John Major, by contrast, allowed his Government to be paralysed because he rejected the simple answer to the ERM currency blunder, which was to pull Britain out voluntarily before it was expelled. That experience was eerily reminiscent of the far greater interwar disaster of deflation caused by the gold standard, ultimately resolved in the same simple way - by pulling out. This action prompted Sidney Webb's famous lament on behalf of the ruined labour Government: "Nobody told us we could do that."
Simple solutions are just as important in diplomacy as in economics. The simple answer to Hitler was the one urged by Churchill, but rejected by Chamberlain: urgent rearmament. The simple answer to the reconstruction of postwar Europe was the Marshall Plan: instead of demanding reparations from Germany, give it aid. The answer when George Bush asked for Tony Blair's support in his ill-considered Iraq invasion should have been even simpler: Just Say No.
The famous slogan from America's War on Drugs brings me to my main subject. As has been so apparent from the past week's events. Mr Brown now faces a host of problems more daunting than any he imagined at the Treasury. Yet there is a common thread linking the British Army's failure to bring order to large parts of Afghanistan controlled by the Taleban and the British police's failure to bring order to large parts of our inner cities controlled by gangs of gun-toting youths. That common thread is drugs.
The UN report published this week on the huge expansion of opium production in Afghanistan's lawless Helmand province has turned into common knowledge what British diplomats and generals have been whispering for years: the Taleban and al-Qaeda are making vast profits from the international drug trade. Official efforts to eradicate poppies are not just failing but are actually promoting more opium production by turning many remote regions of the country into anarchic no-go-zones, completely beyond the control of coalition forces. The anti-drug campaigns are also strengthening the Taliban military by turning local populations against the allied forces and the Afghan Government, since these threaten the opium farmers' meagre livelihoods.
Under these conditions, it is hardly surprising that efforts to promote economic development, education and political reconstruction in Helmand are failing. Such efforts may be necessary to win the "hearts and minds", but development campaigns cannot even get started so long as local people see government officials and British soldiers as alien interlopers, bent on destroying the only economic and social structures that actually work in their communities, which happen to be based on drugs.
Back on the streets of Britain we see a similar process. Why have the police lost control of the streets in so many British cities to armed gangs with easy access to weapons and growing propensities to violence? Partly, perhaps, the violence is due to failures in the criminal justice system; mismanaged police priorities, excess bureaucracy, lax sentencing and so on. Partly, the inner-city anarchy stems from poor education, joblessness and family breakdown. Rampant consumerism, our winner-takes-all culture and violence in music and videos no doubt play a part. The list of underlying causes for social breakdown and teenage alienation is endless.
This complexity would seem to suggest that we cannot even think about the violent crime wave, until all of our society's manifold economic, psychological and educational problems can be resolved. that, of course, means we must cede our city streets to gangs more or less for ever- which is precisely the attitude adopted by many police forces, judges and politicians until now.
But what if, instead of looking for the root causes of crime and social breakdown, we consider what might have changed in recent years to encourage more teenagers to carry weapons?, the answer then becomes much simpler. As in Helmand, many inner-city estates have created an alternative social order where the economics of the hugely profitable drug trade are far more attractive than any other choice.
And just as in Helmand, the efforts to suppress drug-use and trading have distracted the police and the courts from the infinitely more important tasks of preventing violence and keeping control of the streets. For example, tougher sentences for carrying knives or guns are pointless when the law already imposes even longer prison terms - up to life for large quantities - on people who carry drugs, which many of the teenage gangs habitually do. Similarly, zero-tolerence policing, which could certainly help to get weapons off the streets in the right conditions, is of little use if prisons are so overcrowded with drug offenders that there is no room for violent criminals carrying knives and even guns.
All these observations point to a simple conclusion: simple, though not easy. The global war against drugs is a contradiction to the war against violent crime at home and the war against terrorism internationally. Legalising, or at least decriminalising, drugs would, not on its own, end terrorism or gang violence -and it is no substitute for long-term measures to promote development abroad or improve education at home. But a ceasefire in the war against drugs would at least give peace a chance - not only in Afghanistan, but also in the streets of Britain.
Anatole Kaletsky - The Times
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