There was standing room only in the public gallery of Guernsey's Royal Court today (20 June) for the sentencing of three people for the cultivation and supply of cannabis.
The sentencing comes just over a week before the States decides whether to start a review of the legal status of cannabis.
The defendant, 68-year-old Michael Clarke, who was charged with cultivating the cannabis, had initially done so to help his wife with her medical condition.
The court heard that, having then suffered a series of personal setbacks financially, he turned to larger scale production in order to pay his mortgage and living expenses.
Police only discovered his enterprise after they were tipped off about a strong smell of cannabis coming from a house in St Peter Port.
On entering, they found that the whole basement area had been converted. 141 plants were found in total, together with more than £43,000 in cash.
His phone and computer were seized, and as well as a detailed spreadsheet listing records of production and supply figures, a series of messages between Clarke and the second defendant, Lucia Faith Pagliarone, were also discovered.
The evidence showed that he had been regularly supplying substantial quantities of up to 250 grams to her, every seven to 10 days.
Pagliarone and her partner Christopher John Burnett were also arrested and police investigations revealed that she was buying the cannabis for £20 per gram and selling it on to a small network of contacts, for £30 to help them deal with medical issues.
She was also keeping around a hundred grams a month for personal consumption between herself, her partner and her adult son, all of whom now receive medically prescribed cannabis.
Burnett admitted helping Pagliarone to bag up the individual orders, but said he did not contact any of the clientele and did not know the supplier, Clarke.
Many of those involved were using the cannabis for medicinal reasons – to help ease pain and discomfort and many of the arguments raised in court questioned whether a prison sentence was proportionate.
The court also heard how a custodial sentence would severely impact Clarke's wife, who uses a wheelchair.
She was in court this afternoon, and sobbed as the jury was told of their 30-year partnership and how she would struggle physically, mentally and emotionally without him.
Similarly, Pagliarone and Burnett have infant twins, and are both primary carers for their children.
In sentencing, Deputy Bailiff Jessica Roland said the records showed that Clarke had produced and sold 11 kilos of cannabis between 2018 and 2020.
But she said, the court had spent some time considering the individual circumstances, particularly in relation to their family lives.
Sentencing Michael Clarke to four years for the production of cannabis, the Deputy Bailiff said: "However sympathetic we are to the challenges you have faced, you turned to cultivation and supply of an illegal drug with dedicated apparatus and fitting out your home to maximise the return."
Clarke received a further two years for his part in the supply of the drug to run concurrently.
There were gasps from the court as Lucia Faith Pagliarone was given three years imprisonment for her part in the supply of Cannabis, with a further three months to run consecutively for transferring the proceeds of drug trafficking to her partner, Burnett.
Christopher John Burnett was given 18 months suspended for three years for his part in the supply of cannabis and a further one month suspended for possession to run concurrently.
In summing up, the Deputy Bailiff said that it was clear that they had a lot of support from their network of friends. She said that everyone is entitled to have views about cannabis, however, we are bound by the law that is enforced, and we must and will continue to follow the guidelines.