A man who turned drug dealer when the family’s benefits were stopped has been spared jail.
Anthony Howe was caught red handed when undercover officers spotted him selling cannabis to a customer on the street in Plains Farm, Sunderland, last June.
Newcastle Crown Court heard the 39-year-old had been selling £10 deals, and still had 10 wraps in a bag he was carrying, along with £90 in cash.
Howe, of Besford Grove, Hendon, Sunderland, admitted possessing a Class B drug with intent to supply.
He has two previous convictions for drug dealing, the last one being in 2010.
Prosecutor Jessica Slaughter told the court two plain clothes detectives had noticed Howe approaching a man who had been acting suspiciously in Borough Road.
Miss Slaughter said: “The defendant approached this male and they effectively observed a drug deal.
“Ten pounds was passed over and the defendant took a small bag out of a larger bag from his left pocket.”
The court heard when Howe’s phone was seized it contained messages which linked him to dealing.
Vic Laffey, defending, said:
“He lives with his partner and they have a number of children.
“What instigated the offence was she was investigated, and is still in the process of being investigated, for benefit fraud. As a result the benefits were stopped. They had no income at all.
“That is what led to him taking the step of reverting to something he has been involved in in the past.
“It was a financial decision because of lack of money and the fact the benefits had been stopped altogether.”
Mr Recorder Andrew Baker, QC, sentenced Howe to 15 months’ imprisonment, suspended for two years, with supervision.
The judge told him: “You were, in effect, caught red handed dealing in the street, small wraps of cannabis for £10.
“If your issues are not addressed, I am satisfied you will offend again.
“With your record, this really is your last chance to keep yourself out of custody.”
A pro-cannabis rally was held in Redcar to “start a sensible debate” on legalising the Class B drug.
It was held by Teesside Cannabis Club at Redcar Rugby Union Football Club’s fields on Green Lane on Saturday afternoon.
John Holiday, 30, from Middlesbrough, started the club as his interest in the medicinal qualities of the drug grew.
“We have had five get-togethers in the North-east but not on this level,” said John, who registered the group six months ago.
“We have got three main areas: medicinal, recreational and industrial.
“This rally gives people a hands on approach, a chance to get involved with other like-minded people.
“Everything happens down south so this is to give people something to get behind in the North-east.
“We got permission from the rugby club and we’ve had meetings with the police.”
John began using cannabis for medicinal reasons several years ago when he suffered with Crohn’s Disease style symptoms which saw him hospitalised having lost a lot of weight.
“I had negative experiences with prescribed medication – tramadol addiction, various side effects,” he said.
“I take cannabis in a capsule instead now, it’s coconut-infused cannabis oil. I do smoke it recreationally too.
“Five years ago my father was diagnosed with lung cancer. He had all the chemo and radiotherapy and had positive results in the beginning but the side effects of that was it killed off his immune system and he passed away last June.
“We didn’t get the chance to trial cannabis with him, it’s very hard to make the cannabis oil to treat cancer and it’s not something you can do legally in the UK.”
Colin Richardson, 41, from Pallister Park, Middlesbrough, said: “I have been using cannabis since I was 11. You don’t hear of people using cannabis committing crimes. It’s different from other drugs.”
Rolfie Lokikush Larsen, 37, from Guisborough, said: “It’s just time to have a sensible conversation about this. We’re talking about a plant at the end of the day.
“It’s time people realised that stoners are responsible people who can hold down jobs and bring up kids. I am a single father of two children and work as a volunteer for Guisborough museum.
“Cannabis should be on the same level as alcohol and cigarettes. It should have the same restrictions.”
Cleveland Police checked in on the peaceful rally throughout the event.
Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 03 Aug 2014