In a recent case before the Court of Appeal, James Jones, the owner of a shop called ‘Grow Republic’, which sold paraphernalia associated with growing and smoking cannabis, appealed against his conviction for incitement to produce the drug.
The shopkeeper was arrested following an undercover sting operation. A plain clothes police officer, posing as a would-be cannabis grower, went to the shop asking for advice. On the pretence that they were discussing how to grow ‘tomatoes’, that advice was freely given.
Jones was subsequently arrested on the basis that the advice and sale of equipment amounted to incitement.
He defended the charge by arguing that the items sold were not illegal; that he did not mention cannabis; stated it was illegal to grow cannabis and that he would only discuss tomatoes; and pointed out notices in his shop advising that it was illegal to produce cannabis.
The jury found him guilty, however, and the judge imposed a 10-month prison sentence.
The Court of Appeal upheld the conviction. It said the jury could reasonably conclude that the use of the word ‘tomatoes’ was no more than a ‘device’ to avoid the use of the word ‘cannabis’ in an attempt to provide a ‘fig-leaf’ or pretence at observing the law.
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