Van driver who used cannabis to treat gout and back pain sniffed out by police

A man who claimed to use cannabis for medical reasons ended up in court when police sniffed the smell of plants wafting out of his Mercedes van.

By Gareth Crickmer
Monday, 5th July 2021, 4:55 am
Updated Monday, 5th July 2021, 7:22 am

The stench of the banned substance from Paul Stephenson’s motor as he travelled through Boldon Colliery put police on his scent.

And the aroma was so powerful they could sniff it as they set off in pursuit – and even as they tailed him, magistrates heard.

Stephenson, 48, of Portsmouth Road, Pennywell, Sunderland, had paid £50 for 10 young plants from a friend minutes earlier on Thursday, February 18.

A stock image of a cannabis plant

Prosecutor Becky Slade said: “A policeman was travelling to Charles Street when he saw a van going in the opposite direction.

“He states that while following the van, he could smell small cannabis coming from it.

“He signalled for the driver to stop. He says that a number of cannabis plants were piled up on the seat. They were 1.5ft to 2ft tall.”

Ms Slade said Stephenson had 10 previous convictions from 13 offences, none of which were for drugs and the last was in 2015.

Jason Smith, defending, told the South Tyneside court: “Paul has made a mistake here.

“He’s been told that a friend of his has juvenile cannabis plants.

“He’s got gout and pain in his back and quite a few drugs prescribed by his GP didn’t work.

“He paid £50 for these 10 plants, and his intention was to see if he could grow some more for his own use.

“Mr Stephenson hadn’t even got home when he was caught. There were ten juvenile plants, which weren’t producing."

Mr Smith added: “He accepted having them, and even inadvertently told the police where he had got them from.

“The police went off and got some more.”

Stephenson, who pleaded guilty to possession of the controlled class B drug, was fined £80 and must pay £85 court costs and a £34 victim surcharge.

Roseanne Forster, chair of the bench, ordered the forfeiture and destruction of the plants.

She told Stephenson his arrest had proved there were consequences to the use of illegal drugs for medicinal purposes.

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