Man loses appeal relating to medicinal cannabis use

AN Ipswich man who grew cannabis for his medicinal use, to ease pain from injuries, has lost his appeal against his conviction for unlawful production of the drug.

In April, last year, Alexandros Dimitropoulos was found guilty of producing more than 500gm of the drug, but not guilty of a cannabis possession charge.

He also was found not guilty by a jury of possessing instructions on how to produce cannabis.

At his trial, police said they found 12 large cannabis plants, 51 small cannabis plants and six seedlings in Dimitropoulos's shed and dried cannabis in his house.

They also found books containing instructions on how to grow cannabis in his bedroom, the Court of Appeal heard.

An analysis of the cannabis showed there were 1.717kg of dry or drying cannabis and 22.274kg of cannabis plants, after roots were removed.

Dimitropoulos said he had been severely injured in a car accident in Costa Rica in 2012 and the medicinal cannabis he had taken in South America had helped his recovery.

But when he returned to Australia, when medicinal use of cannabis was illegal, he had obtained the drug through the black market, before growing it himself.

Dimitropoulos said it was the only treatment that was effective in alleviating his pain, although he was not legally able to take it for his condition at the time.

The court heard he has been legally prescribed medicinal cannabis since late 2018.

Dimitropoulos told the court he had grown cannabis as a last resort, but the Southport District Court trial judge did not allow him to raise a defence of emergency.

The Court of Appeal judges agreed that Dimitropoulos could not raise an emergency defence, saying he had acknowledged that he had not exhausted all medical options.

"The medical evidence supported the fact that other pain treatment was available, even if it was not the most optimal method of relieving his pain," Justice Susan Brown said.

The production of cannabis was not a reaction to sudden or extraordinary circumstances, but based on Dimitropoulos's own determination that it was the best relief for him, the judge said.

The Court of Appeal also dismissed his three other appeal grounds.

Dimitropoulos had claimed the trial judge erred by not allowing him to make an opening statement and refusing to allow him to tell the jury they could make whatever decision they wanted, even against the weight of the evidence.

Justice Brown said the trial judge allowed Dimitropoulos, who defended himself, to read a statement as part of his evidence in chief.

Justice Brown said he was also given considerable latitude by the judge in his closing address.

Dimitropoulos had claimed the guilty verdict on the production charge was inconsistent with the not guilty verdicts on the other two charges.

Justice Brown said while all counts had been established on the evidence, the not guilty verdicts were consistent with the jury adopting a "sympathetic view" towards him.

The judge said the jury acted more with humanity than upon a strict application of the law, having decided it would be unfair to convict on the other two counts, after finding Dimitropoulos guilty of the first count.

Originally published as Man loses appeal relating to medicinal cannabis use