Grower who gave ‘black oil’ to seriously ill customers at cost price and for free calls for change to law
Speaking at his farm in rural south Wexford this week, James Sinnott warned that laws in Ireland banning the ethical production of cannabis oils are driving desperately ill patients into the arms of unscrupulous criminals.
And he told how one such criminal — who was supposedly supplying cannabis oil to desperately ill people — was charging three times the correct price while handing over a mixture containing toothpaste spiked with LSD.
“I have helped hundreds of people over the years,” James told the Sunday World.
“I was the main supplier in the south east. At one stage, I was the only supplier in the south east.
“And, over 10 years, I never made one penny out of it.
“The way I looked at it … if I made money out of it, I’d be bringing nothing but bad luck on myself.
“I charged €250 for 22 millilitre vials. And that is the minimum I could make it for — allowing for a €50 margin on each vial so I could produce more for people who couldn’t afford it.
“That’s what the €50 went to — giving the oil for free to people who couldn’t afford it.”
When he appeared before Wexford Circuit Court last month, charged with three counts of possession of cannabis, James’ lawyers handed in a series of testimonials, including a number from individuals who felt that the oil had assisted them in dealing with conditions such as multiple sclerosis.
“We helped people with Crohn’s disease, MS, cancer, people with brain tumours,” James continued.
“And usually one vial was enough for people. Now, with this conviction and the publicity, I can’t do this anymore.
“And the thing that bothers is that there are con artists out there who will fill the void and sick people will go to them.
“There some very unscrupulous foreigners out there who were selling it for €600 a vial and it was nothing but toothpaste with LSD inside in it.
“But, if you’re dying, you’re going to be desperate.
“So, you’re going to pay that.”
Asked how he had become involved in the production of cannabis oil at his Discovery Valley farm, James said his father was ill with cancer when he was involved in a serious accident 10 years ago.
“I died in a motorcycle accident,” he said. I was dead for 17- and-a-half minutes.
“And soon after, when I came back to life, I looked at things differently.
“My father developed prostate cancer at that time and he had cancer in the head.
“He had three forms of cancer and had a triple bypass but he died of fibrosis of the lungs in the end.
“A man who we were getting the oil off for my father moved to Cork and, after that, there was nobody to get it off anymore.
“But we had to keep the oil running for my father.
“So that’s when we started producing it ourselves.”
As well as supplying the oil, James said he gave some of his customers plants and taught them how to make it themselves.
“I believed as many people as possible should know how to do this,” he said.
The crop, James said, he grew at his farm was a strain known as Ruderalis.
“The stuff we grew wouldn’t have been fit for use on the street,” he said, “and we used every part of the plant in the oil … even the roots.”
James said he was aware that what he was doing was illegal and he bears no ill feeling towards the guards or the court for shutting him down.
“I have the height of respect for the judge and the guards,” he said. “They’re applying the law as it stands in the best way they can.
“But that’s why the law needs to be changed.
“Cannabis oil should be supplied to people in this country like it is in other jurisdictions without seriously ill people having to go through hell to get it.
“Even if it doesn’t work for everyone, and I’m not saying it does, at least give people the chance to try it for themselves.”
According to the Garda website: “It is an offence to cultivate, import, export, produce, supply and possess cannabis except in accordance with a Ministerial Licence.
“Policy to date has not permitted the cultivation of cannabis for medical purposes and no licences have been issued for this activity.”
James’ activities were brought to the attention of the authorities in 2018 and three searches of his farm took place over the next 24 months.
Investigators put a street value on the material they seized during the three searches at a total of €35,000.
But, Judge Martin Nolan heard, it became clear to gardai that they were not dealing with a drug dealer in the usual sense of the phrase.
James consistently informed them that the oil was intended for use in the treatment of illness. It was also accepted by the gardai that James had eventually, after the three raids on his premises, stopped growing his unconventional crop.
Imposing the suspended two-year jail term, Judge Nolan described James’ belief that he could break the law in order to help people as misguided.
The court accepted on the other hand that, in providing cannabis oil to needy people, he was not making a profit.
Suspending the jail terms for a period of four years on condition James is of good behaviour for that time, the judge urged him to go home and concentrate on his lambing.
“To me, when I was in court, facing five to seven years, it meant nothing to me compared to all the years we have given back to people while we were doing this,” said James.
“I was like G Conlon from In the Name of the Father when I walked out of court that day.
“Everyone who was there said I shouldn’t have been in court and they were all cheering me and clapping me on the back.
“At the end of the day, there’s right and there’s wrong … and I honestly believe, if you understand the difference between the two, you’re in no danger of doing wrong even if you do fall foul of the law.”