Cannabis mum spared jail for growing cannabis for son and can keep home

Cannabis mum

A 74-year-old Perth woman faces losing her home under the proceeds of crime law but says she was only growing cannabis to treat her mentally ill son, not to make money.

Nurse Miriam Down said she began treating her 44-year-old son George, who suffers from bipolar disorder, with cannabis several years ago.

She said the drug has significantly improved George’s previously violent behaviour and allowed her to feel safe.

After it became too expensive to buy, she allegedly began growing cannabis in her backyard.

Ms Down has now been charged with possessing and cultivating the drug with the intent to sell or supply.

The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has applied to freeze her assets, including her Bayswater home valued at around $900,000, under the proceeds of crime laws.

Her case attracted attention after she wrote a letter to The West Australian newspaper describing her plight.

Premier Colin Barnett told 720 ABC Perth he was aware of Ms Down’s predicament.

“It does seem to be an unusual and compassionate case of a mother looking after a son,” Mr Barnett said.

“I am sure, when the full facts come out, that common sense will prevail.

“It doesn’t sound like someone growing cannabis for sale.”

No common sense in legal system: lawyer

However Ms Down’s lawyer Shash Nigam said the current laws did not allow for such discretion.

“There is a real battle on our hands to save her home,” Mr Nigam told Geoff Hutchison on 720 ABC Perth Mornings.

While he declined to comment on details of the Ms Down’s case as it is still before the courts, Mr Nigam said he has acted in numerous cases where assets have been seized, despite not being the proceeds of crime.

“No one in our community has a problem with the people who profit from selling drugs losing their assets,” Mr Nigam said.

“The problem is, there is no allowance in the Act for a person to prove that the assets that are sought to be forfeited were actually acquired from legitimate income.

“They look at the schedules and apply for a drug trafficker declaration and they take the house, the car, the piano, everything.

“A person should be able to show the DPP and the courts that they purchased the house from legitimate sources of income and be excused.”

Talkback callers to 720 ABC Perth were overwhelmingly sympathetic to Ms Down.

“I feel very sorry for this lady,” caller Paul said.

“I don’t want, as a citizen, for the state to profit from this.”

A neighbour of Ms Down contacted the station via SMS to support her.

“For a number of years there were issues around her son – jumping onto people’s roofs, hitting and damaging our car with a big stick, running up and down the street and sometimes an ambulance would come and take him away,” the neighbour said.

“Obviously the drug has been working for her son and for her and for us.

“Mandatory sentencing and laws leave no room for discretion.”

Ms Down will face court in October.