‘Medicinal cannabis’ grower admits sales

After a raid on his Aranui home, Jason James Priddle told police  he gave away medicinal cannabis and only charged for postage. The “tick book” recording his transactions told a different story.

Police said the tick book showed payments for four ounces of cannabis for $1520, and five ounces for $1862. Another customer had paid $420.

When they checked his bank records against the tick book entries, they found transactions totalling $12,859 for a seven-week period in July and August 2017.

Christchurch District Court Judge Raoul Neave said: “There was more than a passing commercial element to the drug dealing.”

He allowed 44-year-old Priddle to serve a 10-month term of home detention rather than a jail sentence, with six months of post-detention conditions.

For the past year, Priddle has been off cannabis and working as a driver where he is subject to regular drug testing. His sentence requires him to continue with the testing and stay off the drugs.

The investigation began on August 29, 2017, when a staff member at a courier depot in Wellington noticed a strong smell of cannabis from a package. It had been sent by Priddle who had an account with Courier Post. Inside, officials found 24.2g of cannabis in a poorly sealed back.

The recipient explained that he had paid $400 for what he believed was cannabis containing very low levels of the active psychoactive ingredient, THC.

When police arrived at Priddle’s home in Christchurch a few days later, they smelt a strong odour of cannabis. He admitted he had just smoked some.

Police then found the tick book, and in his garage they found an unsophisticated growing system with heat lamps, extraction fans and about 25 plants.

Priddle said he grew the cannabis to manage his back pain, and gave away any excess cannabis but only charged for postage.

He said he was growing cannabis which was low in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and high in Cannabidiol (CBD).

He said it had a low psychoactive quality but had health benefits that could not be obtained through mainstream medicine. As well as selling plant material, he could create balms which could be absorbed through the skin.

Priddle had admitted charges of cultivating and selling cannabis in what Judge Neave described as “a fairly determined” growing effort. There was a relatively small number of transactions.

Priddle genuinely believed in the plant’s health benefits, he said.

He had previous convictions for cannabis-related offences in 2008, 2010 and 2012.

Priddle had no desire to participate in rehabilitative programmes, but had stopped using the drug in February 2018 when he started work as a driver at a company that had a reasonably rigorous testing programme. He was willing to take part in a programme that would keep him off cannabis.

“Effectively, if he wants to keep his job, he can’t consume drugs,” said Judge Neave.

He would also have to accept that cannabis remained an illegal drug until Parliament changed the law. The scientific jury was still “well and truly out” on the efficacy of cannabis in terms of pain relief.

“The defendant must make use of conventional medicine if he wants to avoid personal trouble, and if he wants to keep his job,” he said.

The home detention was imposed after consulations between defence counsel Peter Dyhrberg, a community probation officer, and Priddle’s employer established that the sentence would allow him to continue working while being monitored.