Cannabis user with cancer gets suspended sentence
Rick Riechelmann (60) was sentenced to 21 months in prison for possession of cannabis seized from his home in Fangaloto. The sentence was suspended entirely after the judge reviewed the health issues the accused was facing. He admitted that he smoked cannabis for pain relief and took it as a palliative.
The Honorable Mr. Justice Cooper sentenced him this month in the Supreme Court of Nuku’alofa, after pleading guilty.
On March 24 this year, police searched the address of the accused’s home in Fangaloto, acting under the warrant issued to search for illicit drugs.
The judge said that after being informed of the reason for their presence, the accused informed the police that he would find cannabis and utensils.
“He explained that he was suffering from stage 4 cancer and then they got a letter from his doctor in Australia confirming this diagnosis and specifying his medication.
“The point is, Mr. Riechelmann is at an advanced stage of this disease and he used to smoke cannabis for pain relief and take it as a palliative. He confessed to the police, during the search, what he had done, ”said the judge.
During this time, the total weight of the recovered cannabis plants was 170.32 grams and 8.41 grams of seeds.
The judge said that this case presented a dilemma regarding the weight of cannabis, as the plants and branches weighed 170.32 grams, which was not the weight of usable drugs. The branches could not be used and there was no indication that the leaves were dried to the state required for smoking.
“Possession of plants is more closely equivalent to cases of growing cannabis,” he said.
“Taking all of this together, the medical situation the accused is facing, his early guilty plea and the weight issue, I find this case outside the bounds of other cannabis cases that have come before these courts. “
He said the comparable sentences regarding the weight of cannabis, the weight of the plant or the number or weight of the seeds are overshadowed by the health issues this defendant faces and why he was using this illegal drug.
“The court does not in any way encourage or advocate the use of illegal drugs and this is to be deplored. But, in this situation, a prison sentence is not deserved in my opinion when I take together all the factors that I have identified.
He then sentenced him to 21 months’ imprisonment with a total suspended sentence of one year.
The drugs and paraphernalia were confiscated for destruction.
“Any breach is reserved for me,” said the judge.