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Saturday, December 2, 2023

‘There is no chance Ma’am’

A 76-year-old man growing and smoking cannabis all his life had a two-year sentence suspended on multiple counts of cultivating the illegal drug at his home in West Cork — but he plans to grow it again.

A condition of the suspension of the sentence is that David Walton, of Kilnaspogh, Skibbereen, Co Cork, keeps the peace for 12 months and does not grow cannabis during that period.

As he left the dock at Cork Circuit Criminal Court, he said to Judge Helen Boyle: “Simply speaking, I will grow cannabis next year.” 

Judge Boyle explained the condition of the suspension of the two-year sentence to Mr Walton who has a long beard, long white hair and wore a colourful woven poncho.

Judge Boyle said: “You have to not grow cannabis for 12 months.” 

Mr Walton replied: “There is no chance Ma’am.” 

Before the suspended sentence was imposed, Mr Walton had predicted he would get a prison sentence and was pleading with the judge not to jail him.

“I’m a softie, please just leave me alone. I haven’t hurt anyone. We are so peaceful. I have respect for the court… I am a passionate man,” he said.

Representing himself in court, he said he joined the Merchant Navy as a younger man and everyone in that line smoked cannabis at the time.

“I am guilty but I don’t take this seriously. I’m just a simple guy. Sixty years ago I was first convicted of cultivation,” he said.

Detective Garda Shannon Ryan said there were five raids on the home of the accused in 2020 and 2021, and on each visit cannabis plants were being cultivated.

The official valuation of cannabis under cultivation is based on a plant reaching full maturity and having a potential street value of €800. On that basis, the plants seized at his home could have had a potential value of €100,000. 

However, the plants were actually very small and if they were to be harvested in the condition in which they were found they would have had a total value — across the five seizures — of no more than €4,000.

Judge Boyle said in her judgment: “Mr Walton is a man who lives off the grid. He does not take benefits from the State. He does not believe cannabis should be illegal. He has done some good works, working with American Indians.

“He started life in the Merchant Navy when he said they all smoked cannabis. He has lost two brothers. I am sorry.

“He smokes cannabis to get relief from gout. He is a pacifist. His father was a conscientious objector and he was treated poorly.

“I accepted he does not come to any attention except because of his belief that he should be allowed to cultivate cannabis without intervention. There is a duty on citizens to respect the law.” 

The judge concluded by finding that it was at the lower end of the scale for such cases and that on the basis of his health and advanced years she would impose a suspended sentence.

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