pension pot | 

OAP (73) busted for growing 40 cannabis plants at home says he won’t stop smoking weed

“It’s a ridiculous waste of State money and what for? It’s not going to stop me smoking.”

Rolled-age pensioner: Richard Goldfrapp in Skibereen, Co Cork Pic Gary Ashe© Gary Ashe

Richard Goldfrapp (left) talking to Alan Sherry in Skibereen, Co Cork. Pic Gary Ashe© Gary Ashe

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Alan SherrySunday World

A 73-year-old who was this week given a three year suspended sentence for growing his own cannabis plants says the law needs to change and he wasn’t hurting anyone by cultivating his own supply.

Former jazz drummer and fish industry worker Richard Goldfrap, who gardai describe as a “nice man”, was busted with 40 cannabis plants which he was growing for his own personal use at his home in the remote area of Kilcoe close to Roaringwater Bay near Skibbereen in West Cork on June 11 last year.

Judge Helen Boyle gave him a three year suspended sentence at Cork Circuit Court this week but warned him he was facing a custodial sentence if he is caught again as this was his second conviction for such an offence.

Mr Goldfrap told the Sunday World this week that criminalising cannabis users is a complete waste of state resources.

“It’s a ridiculous waste of State money and what for? It’s not going to stop me smoking.”

“My solicitor sent me a letter saying please don’t start growing it again because you could be in big trouble, even though I have big health problems and I’m 73.”

He said while he has smoked weed most of his life in recent years, he was using it for pain relief.

“I mainly took it for pain. I have a lot of health problems and lot of pharmaceutical drugs don’t cope with them very well and there’s lots of side effects but with marijuana the side effect is you get a nice high.

“There’s no difference between a guy who has a couple of pints of Guinness after work. It’s a crazy law.”

A growing number of countries around the world have legalised or decriminalised cannabis for personal use and German legislators recently unveiled plans decriminalise the possession of up to 30 grammes of cannabis and allow the sale of the substance to adults for recreational purposes in a controlled market.

“I think Ireland should catch up,” said Mr Goldfrap.

Richard Goldfrapp (left) talking to Alan Sherry in Skibereen, Co Cork. Pic Gary Ashe© Gary Ashe

“Really the heart of this for me is they’re criminalising young people and they’re forced into the hands of dealers because it’s illegal so they go on the black market and if the dealer doesn’t have what they want they’ll off them something else.

“If they legalise it, they can do what they do in America which is tax it. They can use that tax to build, hospitals, roads, infrastructure and they can monitor the purity of it.”

He said he doesn’t approve of high strength marijuana which is specifically grown to have high levels of THC but sees nothing wrong with lower strength varieties.

If he wants to smoke cannabis now, he’ll have to buy it rather than grow his own.

“I’ll just score it on the black market. I know people who grow it and they don’t genetically modify it and do a naturally growing plant and it’s a very nice hit to put it in the common language. Skunk is awful stuff. Even people of my generation say stay away.”

When he appeared in court this week Detective Garda Andrew Manning described Mr Goldfrap as a “nice man to deal with” who cooperated fully with the investigation.

The feeling was mutual.

“The garda who bust me, Andrew, was very nice. He said I didn’t give him any bother at all.

“Funny enough, people of my generation who are smokers are nice people. We don’t cause people bother; we don’t get pissed out of our brains and start fighting people.

“I don’t have any animosity toward the gardai. They’re employed to do a job that they do and they have to pay their mortgage and raise their kids just like anyone else.”

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Originally from the UK, Mr Goldfrap, who had ancestors from Carlow, came to Ireland in 1997 after he was made redundant from a job in the fishing industry in Cornwall.

“I came over in a camper van and went round and round and ended up here [in west Cork]. I thought the river was magnificent and it’s near the sea. I came over from Cornwall and I like to be near the sea.”

He bought some land in Kilcoe in 1999 and has lived her ever since.

He said other than his cannabis plants the only other time he has been in trouble with the law was when he was arrested protesting the Vietnam war in the early 1970s.

“That’s the only time I’ve ever been put up against the wall,” he said adding that he wasn’t even convicted over that.

“I’m just a normal person.”

“I actually have a degree in art but making a living out of that [is hard].

“I think there’s a lot of rebel in us art students.”

He said he previously used to play in drums in a band when he was younger.

“I was into jazz more than rock and roll. I can’t read music so I didn’t get very far but it was fantastic I used to have regular gigs on Friday nights, Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons in a trio.”

His sister Alison had more success in the music industry and is the lead singer of the multi-platinum band Goldfrapp – adding a p to the end of their name for effect.

Mr Goldfrap said he wasn’t sure how he came on the radar of gardai. He wasn’t selling cannabis and was growing it naturally rather than using any special lighting or tents or hydroponics that might draw attention.

He had suspicions about two people who strayed onto his land one day saying they were lost while he was potting his cannabis plants.

“Something about them didn’t ring true. One was a lady who kept her head down the whole time. I was actually potting them up on an open table when they happened to come to my yard saying they were lost. I said ‘well you can come through my place and go out that way’, which they did but I think they squealed or whatever.”

He said equally it could have been someone else. “It could have been but you just don’t know.”

He said he had no idea what the plants were worth

“It was ridiculous. I don’t know [how much it was worth] I had 40 very young plants and they seemed to put a great deal of importance on how much they were worth. Apparently, a full grown plant is worth so much money. it’s crazy.”

He said cannabis grown using specialist equipment can be lucrative.

“They can charge a lot of money and can make a fortune. They can grow a crop that matures after three months. It’s been tweaked and tweaked to have as much THC as possible which does send people crazy.

“This is why they make a big emphasis on what it’s worth if you were selling it. I said I don’t know what it’s worth I don’t sell the bloody stuff. Why would I grow it for myself and sell it because then I’d have to replenish it on the black market.”

He said legalisation would lead to better controls around the drug.

“If they legalise it, they can monitor the quality and strength.”

“The money it costs to police this could be put into far more useful purposes.”

Cannabis possession is currently illegal in Ireland except for those who have a Ministerial Licence to use cannabis-based products for medicinal purposes.

However, since the end of 2020 gardai have been allowed deal with simple cases of cannabis possession through an adult caution rather than through the courts which has led to a sharp decline in prosecutions.

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