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Man reports having no intention of paying cannabis conviction fines

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54-year-old asks district judge if she thinks cannabis should be legalized

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A 54-year-old man in Northern Ireland was recently convicted of possessing cannabis but made clear to the court that he has no plans of paying any associated fines.

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According to The Impartial Reporter, the man, who had four arrest warrants out for him, faced charges related to theft, a defective tire and cannabis possession.

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In court earlier this week, the district judge ordered a £350 fine and three penalty points (these apply to a person’s driving record, with 12 such points within three years resulting in possible disqualification from driving) for all offences. The accused, however, was having none of it.

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‘I ain’t paying,’ man tells district judge

“Should you not be considering legalization [of cannabis]?” the man responded when asked if he had anything to say.

That question was followed by a firm statement about the fine imposed. “I ain’t paying,” the Enniskillen man, who was representing himself, reportedly told the judge, eliciting a warning that any such decision could see him headed off to jail.

The Sentencing Council in the U.K., which includes Northern Ireland, reports a fine can be paid in full on the same day that it is imposed. Although a person who can’t or won’t pay a court-ordered fine can be detained, “more commonly, a court will allow payments to be made over a period,” usually within 12 months.

The information even contains a chart of net weekly income and the suggested starting point for weekly payments.

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Maximum penalty for cannabis possession is five years in prison

Recreational cannabis remains illegal throughout the U.K., with the top penalty for possession being five years in prison, an unlimited fine or both. Of course, those are maximums and in practice are rarely, if ever, imposed.

Information from Release, an independent and registered charity that provides free, specialist advice on drug use and drug laws, reports that things like community resolutions, which can be issued on a street, conditional cautions and fines are other options.

That said, “you might be charged with possession if you have had cautions or convictions for similar offences before, or if you have more than a small amount of drugs on you,” the organization adds.

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In deciding whether or not to prosecute an adult for simple possession of a small amount of weed for personal use, U.K.’s Crown Prosecution Service points out that aggravating factors need to be considered. These include if cannabis was consumed in a public place or near areas frequented by young people, as well as if the individual is a repeat or persistent offender.

Under cannabis possession offences, the Sentencing Council defines a large amount as 25 to 50 grams, a small amount as 10 to 24.9 g and a very small amount as up to 9.9 g.

Weed charges following three separate incidents

The three possession offences against the man stemmed from three separate incidents in 2022, according to The Impartial Reporter.

In February, his vehicle was stopped for erratic driving. When the cops detected a strong cannabis smell coming from the car, which also had a defective tire, they found weed in plain view.

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In May, officers on patrol saw him looking into a house and when asked what he was doing, his evasiveness kicked off a request to search him, resulting in the man handing over two joints and receiving a caution.

And in September, the man was stopped by officers after they detected the smell of weed. The accused tried to block a personal search, but the cops ended up finding and seizing 6 g of cannabis.

Sparking joints for all to see

The U.K. incident is hardly the first time someone called for legalizing cannabis, whether for medicinal or recreational purposes, in a place of authority.

In February 2020, a Tennessee man who had earlier been arrested after sparking up a joint in front of a judge, opted to apologize for his actions, but not his call that cannabis should be legal. He had been in court in connection with a traffic stop that ended with speeding and simple possession charges.

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His lawyer reportedly said, “We must ask why we are allowing our government to spend billions of dollars to keep a non-lethal herb illegal.”

Two years later in Nebraska, a 28-year-old man there was cited for cannabis after lighting up a doobie during a Lincoln City Council meeting. The man was speaking at the podium when he decided to show council members how things are done. “To sit in and lead by example, this is how we do it,” he told the council as he retrieved the joint, placed it in his mouth, lit up and inhaled.

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