Cancer survivor convicted of growing cannabis says he ‘wouldn't be alive’ without the drug

Bowel cancer survivor says judge could have fined him ten times €100 fine and he’d still be smiling

Farmer James talks to Sunday World reporter Patrick O'Connell

James Lawrence says he reacted badly to prescription Oxycontin

Patrick O'ConnellSunday World

A 62-year-old bowel cancer survivor convicted and fined €100 for growing cannabis for his own use says he has no regrets as: “I wouldn’t have been alive to stand in that judge’s courtroom without it.”

Clare man James Lawrence was prescribed the highly-addictive opioid Oxycontin to manage his pain during six horrific months of chemotherapy after he had half his bowel removed.

But after losing 14lbs in a nine-day-period, James ditched his prescription – convinced the combination of the two was going to kill him.

“I thought I was dying,” James told the Sunday World.

“I honestly thought this is it for me … so I knew I had to do something. And, I did. I did something proactive. I went online.

“I started reading and there were all these American doctors talking about the health benefits of marijuana for people receiving chemotherapy.

“But, how could I afford to buy it? I’m on disability so I couldn’t try and buy it off criminals.

“So, I did what I felt had to do.

“I’m quite a good gardener – I have veggie gardens. So, I worked out how they grow it.

“And that’s what I did. It was only two or three plants and it was just for me. I used them to make tea.”

James said the impact on his health was almost immediate.

“Within two to three days I bounced back,” he said. “I was feeling better. I was eating, I was sleeping better.

“It really is a miracle drug and I’m not just saying that. I truly do believe it saved my life.”

Speaking of the pain he endured, James said: “They say you judge pain on a scale of one to 10 – well, there were times when this to me, this was a 10!

“It was pure agony.”

On the topic of the Oxycontin he was prescribed, James said it was extremely effective in combating pain but the combination of the drug and the chemo was simply too much for him.

“You took one pill and 15 minutes later, you had no pain,” James said.

“But it’s the way it made me feel that I couldn’t endure.

“Have you ever woken up after a night out and felt really sick and all you want to do is go back to sleep but you can’t?

“I had that feeling 24 hours a day, for six long months. I didn’t realise people could suffer that much. I was taking Oxycontin every three hours.

“But I’m a lucky person, I don’t get addicted to things. And I was able to give it up.”

James grew his three cannabis plants in his attic under a sodium lamp – convinced that what he was doing was harming no-one while at the same time giving him a second lease at life.

James Lawrence says he reacted badly to prescription Oxycontin

“I stayed on the (cannabis) tea for a while but I didn’t know whether the pain was going to come back or not,” he said.

“So, I grew the three plants to have some in reserve and that’s when they [the gardai] caught me.

“They knocked on the door and said: ‘We’ve got a search warrant for your house’. I let them in. I didn’t hide anything and I told them exactly what was going on.

“I must admit they were very nice, they were gentleman about it. They never said how they ended up at my door.”

Appearing before Judge Mary Larkin at Kilrush District Court last week, James pleaded guilty to the cultivation of cannabis without a licence at his home on July 3, 2021. He was convicted and fined €100.

But James is unapologetic over his actions and called for the law to be looked at where it concerns cannabis and medical need.

“I don’t regret it,” he said.

“It [cannabis] alleviates suffering and anything that alleviates suffering is a good thing, surely?

“Oxycontin is legal and look at the damage it caused in America. Tens of thousands of people became addicted.

“If I had had the option to go in and get cannabis under prescription, that would have solved all my problems. I didn’t want to break the law but I didn’t have a choice. It saved my life. I’m 100 per cent sure of that.”

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